Slave Life and Slave Codes

Slave life varied depending on different factors. They were required to work long hours, eat food often not proper for an animal, and lived in small shacks.

Work was supervised by the Overseer. The overseer was paid to get the most work they could out of the slaves, using any means possible. When the slaves complained to the slaveholders, they would release the overseer therefore protecting their “property.”

Drivers (a slave convinced by the master to manage the slaves for better privileges) were used rather than an overseer and were the most hated by the slaves. Large plantations often required some slaves to work in the plantation home. They enjoyed far better circumstances; domestic slaves lived in better quarters and received better food. They would even travel with the owner’s family at times. Domestic slaves did not often associate with plantation slaves.

Many states passed “Slave Codes,” though they varied from state to state, these outlined the rights of the slaves and the treatment and rules regarding slaves. One could not do business with a slave without the prior consent of the owner. Slaves could be awarded as prizes in raffles, wagered in gambling, offered as security for loans and given as gifts.

Slave were not allowed to keep a gun. If caught carrying a gun, they received 39 lashes. Blacks were held incompetent as witnesses in legal cases involving whites. Education of slaves was prohibited. Marriages between slaves were not considered legally binding. Any slave found guilty of arson, rape of a white woman, or a conspiracy to rebel was put to death.

However, a white man who raped a slave woman was only guilty of a trespass on the master’s property. Even though rape was common on the plantation, very few cases were ever reported.

Source: Slave Life and Slave Codes
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