What are some true stories of slavery in the United States?

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Answered by: Rhonda, An Expert in the Slavery Category
True stories of slavery in the United States can be found through dedicated research and the determination to know more of the history of our country. Some of those stories are surprising, some are funny, and many are heart-breaking.

One of the best known true stories of slavery in the United States was recounted by Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential 1852 novel, UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. The story of Eliza, a young slave mother from Kentucky whose path to freedom required her crossing of the Ohio River to reach the safety of the Underground Railroad, captivated readers and proved to be an extremely powerful attack on slavery.

Eliza, desperate to escape, bundled her child and ran with slave catchers rapidly gaining on her, to the river's edge. In her harrowing attempt to escape, Eliza stepped barefooted onto the frozen ice clad Ohio River. As the ice cracked and broke, causing her to drop her infant child, she began sinking into icy waters. She was able to grab hold of her baby, and they were saved by her determination and the reluctance of the slave catchers to step foot into the frozen, icy cold water. Eliza miraculously made it to the safety of the home of abolitionist John Rankin, where she found refuge and help in later crossing into Canada.

This primary source, another true story of slavery in the United States, is not as well known, but is certainly as poignant. As part of the Federal Writers Project in 1936-38, a slave narrative by Ida Blackshear Hutchinson describes the tragedy she witnessed as young slave mothers worked in the fieldson the Blackshear Plantation.

"Once on the Blackshear place...came sixty babies. When the young mothers went to work, Blackshear had them take their babies with them to the fields. He didn't want them to loose time walking backward and forward nursing. They built a long old trough like a great long cradle and put all these babies in it every morning when the mother come out to the field. It was set at the end of the rows under a big old cottonwood tree.

When they were at the other end of the row, all at once a cloud no bigger than a small spot came up, and it grew fast, and it thundered and lightened as if the world were coming to an end, and the rain just came down in great sheets. And when it got so they could go to the other end of the field, that trough was filled with water and every baby in it was floating 'round in the water drowned. They never got nary a lick of labor and nary a red penny for any one of them babies."

This heart breaking true story does not include the explanation for the "bumper crop" of babies. It seems that Blackshear planned to expand his "herd" by an ingenious plan for breeding. He placed all young people nude into a large, dark barn and left them for an adequate amount of time for each female to be bred. Thus the comment from Ida in her slave narrative, "They never got nary a lick of labor and nary a red penny for any one of them babies."

In learning of the stories of slavery in the United States, may we profit and learn from history so such stories will never be repeated.

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