Assignment 2

  1. At the time of the Civil War, slavery mainly took place in the southern United States.  The northern states were free. After reading John Cameron’s narrative, my initial understanding of the location of slavery in the United States was correct.  Henry Bibb was also from the south, born in Kentucky in May of 1815.
  2. Slaves lived and worked on plantations.  They were not given adequate living quarters and were subjected to intense heat and long working days.  John Cameron said that their quarters were well-kept. Bibb’s account of slavery is almost the complete opposite of John Cameron.
  3. The biggest industry that slaves boosted was the cotton industry.  Other than that, some slaves cooked or cleaned houses, cut sugar cane, and other various tasks.  John Cameron said most of the slaves on his plantation worked in the cotton or corn fields. Cameron himself was a gardener.  Bibb worked in the fields under the lash.
  4. The work conditions were not good.  They were often placed in the fields for long hours during hot, southern days.  They were provided little to no water and were given few breaks (if any). Cameron said that although they worked during long, hot days, they were given plenty of time to rest.  Bibb recalls rarely receiving water and working in the fields no matter the weather.
  5. Slaves were given food, but often not enough and the quality was poor.  Their clothing was often tattered and torn, usually wearing what they arrived to the plantation in.  Their living conditions were abismal, with entire families often living in a small, one room cabin. Cameron’s account goes pretty much entirely against my initial understanding.  They were fed in the big house, their cabins were well-kept, and they always had clothing. Bibb would often go hungry after a day’s work in the fields.
  6. For the most part, slaves were not allowed to be married, although they did so anyways.  It was not uncommon for children to be sold away, never to be seen by their families again.  Cameron married and had six children, three of which were still alive at the time of his interview.  Bibb married under extreme secret in fear of what the masters would do if they found out.
  7. Most slaves received little education, as it was feared that they would become too smart and revolt.  Sometimes, the wives of plantation owners or slave masters would teach slave children how to read and write.  It appears through Cameron’s narrative that he did not learn to read nor write, as the majority of his words are choppy and his grammar is sub-par.  Bibb recalls not being allowed to own any pens, papers, books, or anything else that could be used to provide slaves with an education.
  8. Slaves were often forced to attend masses and services based on whatever religion the plantation owners or slave masters followed.  Their hymns were often mixes of cultural songs as well as religious hymns. Cameron described himself as a Christian who loved the Lord, and expected to be reunited with his master and the master’s wife.  Bibb recalls “very serious religious impressions” when he was 18.
  9. Slaves were given zero freedom unless their masters said so.  Cameron says the slaves on the plantation were allowed to go fishing or hunting, go on walks, or just hang around the cabins.  The freedoms they enjoyed were much greater than many slaves. In his account, Bibb explained the few freedoms he was allowed. They were not allowed to go to school, to go to Sabbath School, or anything else that could be seen as relaxing or educating.
  10. Most slaves didn’t despise all white people, just those who were supporters of slavery.  Cameron and the rest of the slaves on the plantation loved their master and his wife. He said they were all sad when the whites went off to fight in the Civil War.  Most of Bibb’s encounters with whites were negative. He was constantly being whipped and flogged, all of which occurred at the hands of whites.
  11. Many slaves were opposed to slavery and longed for freedom.  Some, though, thought that this was as good as they’d ever get it, and had accepted their fate.  Cameron was one of those who accepted slavery. They loved their master, and he took great care of them.  Bibb was extremely opposed to slavery. He originally had a plan to run away to Canada and seek protection under the British Government.
  12. My source of my understanding of slavery is through basic education from elementary up through high school, as well as visiting museums on slavery.

After reading through these different accounts and narratives from slaves, I realize just how different some experienced slavery.  While those like Cameron loved their masters and appreciated everything they did for them, many others, like Henry Bibb, despised their predicament, and were prepared to do whatever it took to become free.  The basic education on slavery that we receive in elementary or middle school paints an extremely basic picture of the horrific institution. I think more slave narratives should be used when first teaching children about slavery so that they can hear what it was like from someone who experienced it first-hand.


11 Replies to “Assignment 2”

  1. “While those like Cameron loved their masters and appreciated everything they did for them, many others, like Henry Bibb, despised their predicament, and were prepared to do whatever it took to become free. ”

    This is interesting to see the vast difference in views of slaves towards their slaveholders. It makes me wonder if someone in Cameron’s position, enjoyed life more before, or after his abolishment from slavery.

  2. You make a great point about how we have be traditional taught in school about slavery. Reading first hand about someones experience really helps you understand what people really went through. Great!

  3. I had similar findings. Although taking away the freedom of these people was wrong, not every slave had it as bad as the other. It was all dependent on their master and the slaves relationship with them.

  4. You make a very good point about our early education of slavery being only focused on it being a horrific institution. This is not to say that it wasn’t, but as you stated, slaves have different opinions on their lives at the time. I think it takes a lot of time and effort to understand the true overall dynamic between slave and slave owner. I appreciate the articles you highlighted because it helps us understand what these times were really like.

  5. Cameron’s account of slavery is very interesting to me and goes against a lot of what I thought, and have read, about slavery. It seems as if he had an excellent master who treated his slaves well. Up until now, I have never heard of slaves being fed at the main house. It also seems like Cameron and the other slaves on that plantation were allowed a great deal of freedom. It is refreshing in a way to read an about an account as positive as this one seems to be. It is also helpful seeing is contrast Bibb’s, to show the range that slavery encompassed. The slave experience was definitely shaped by the master.

  6. Hey Colin,

    I enjoyed what you brought up about the differentiation on the lively hood and living situations some slaves had compared to others and, somewhat, drew the same conclusion myself. I was honestly surprised reading that some slaves actually didn’t mind working for their masters because not all were treated so poorly compared to what some (using Bibb’s account) had to go through and were subjugated to. I even wonder if opinions differed slave to slave even owned by the same master depending on what jobs they were given and/or expected to do? I also noticed that as I’ve gotten older and learned more about the subject, what we were taught in grade school was VERY vague when going into detail, and being the only exposure people get to the topic I find it can be very misleading on how brutal and wrong slavery really was in the early United States.


  7. I feel that you have a very in depth understanding of slavery and how slave culture was during that time. It’s interesting to see everyones perspectives and how they grasp the concept and I think it’s something that we all have learned throughout our education, however, not everyone has a full understanding of the actual time of slavery.

  8. Colin, I agree. Depending on the owner, determined the circumstance on how the slave was treated. Henry Bibbs interview interested me the most. Like you said huge would do whatever it takes to become free. I also agree that this assignment gave us a more in depth look on slavery compared to earlier classes I have taken.

  9. I agree that slavery is a more complex institution than is taught in elementary and middle school. Slaves could have a content life if they had a benevolent master. However, slaves did not live an equal or good life and were still subject to the whims of any present or future master. In that respect, I believe, the teachings of elementary and middle school were correct in portraying an arbitrary institution that would be horrific to any modern person.

  10. I also agree. The most surprising thing for me was Cameron’s response to his thoughts on the people holding him as their slave. I thought most responses would have been like Bibbs, which is probably attributable to the different slave owners.

  11. I am glad to see that you read Cameron’s account, as well. It was as if I could not believe what I was reading. However, it provides insight into the different forms of slave owners and their values.

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