In the summer of 1855, a slave named Celia committed a crime that would test the laws and precedents placed on slaves in Missouri during this time period. Celia was only fourteen when purchased by a slave owner, Robert Newsom in 1850. Five years after being purchased, she murdered her owner in self-defense because he tried to rape her. Throughout the 1800’s, slaves had few rights, if any at all. Celia, A Slave brings up many questions about these rights because of the controversy surrounding a black woman and her white owner. Many of these questions were also sparked because of the brutal crime Celia committed.
In the book titled Celia, a Slave, written by Melton A. McLaurin, the story of a young slave woman is narrated. Celia had been bought at the age of fourteen by a male slaveholder named Robert Newsom. Newsom purchased Celia with the intention to “purchase a replacement for his wife” (18). Newsom’s wife had passed away a few years earlier, so “he required a sexual partner” (18). Throughout her stay at the Newsom household, Robert Newsom consistently raped and sexually exploited Celia. Celia’s lover, George, gave her an ultimatum saying that if she did not stop having intercourse with Newsom, George would leave her. Stricken with anxiety over possibly losing her lover and determined to stop Newsom’s behavior, Celia beat Newsom to death and burned his body in the fireplace. Celia went to trial, was convicted guilty for the murder of Robert Newsom, and was sentenced to death. Celia, being both a woman and a slave, had to endure twice the amount of hardships in an era controlled by “the sexual politics of slavery,” which was characterized by the exploitation of slaves both financially and sexually, unfair power dynamics, and little legal recourse.
She dragged the body to the fire near her room. Knowing that her crimes would draw attention of the white community, Celia fled the plantation, creating a situation where questions were asked of all of the other slaves.
The theme of Celia, A Slave to me is exploitation and slavery. In the time period that this book had taken place black slave woman were left alone to deal with the sexual abuse from not only their masters and their family members but other male slaves as well. Celia suffered from molestation from her master Robert for years until she had enough and decided to defend herself, which led to the death of Robert. After everyone found out what she had done she was put on trial on October 9th 1855. Because of the Missouri Slave Law, which states slaves cannot testify against their masters, Celia could not testify during her trial. Celia had made the claim that the death of Robert Newsom was self-defense and she never meant to kill him. But being that no one sympathized for her and there was no third party there to witness these claims, it was impossible for her to prove herself. The Missouri Slave Law allows slaves to defend themselves against their masters if their lives are in danger, but the law was silent when it came to slave woman defending themselves from sexual abuse. “While acknowledging that slave woman were used by masters for sexual favors, state studies of slavery, including Missouri’s fail to record charges against whites for rape of a female slave” (114). These laws were spread all
In Celia, a Slave, written by Melton A. McLaurin, the relationships of race, gender, sexuality, power, law, and slavery in the antebellum South is revealed by Celia’s case. In antebellum South, many things dictated a person’s worth, but the race of a person was the number one factor. If a person was of a race other than Caucasian, such as being Black, then he or she would live in the United States as one of two classifications: slave or freed slave. Of these two classifications, both were thought as being subpar humans when compared to white citizens. Due to these beliefs regarding Blacks, slave and free, Blacks themselves were unable to protect themselves from slave masters and in most legal standings (McLaurin 137). This means that Blacks did not have the same citizenship as white people because a slave was not a citizen in the eyes of the law but the human property of his or her master. Gender is the second idea that dictated a person’s worth and character. Males, white particularly, always held more power and sexual control over the women of the antebellum South. White women, when married, became the legal property of her husband (139). Even if a woman was not married, then she was still considered the property of her father and under his protection until she was given away. For example, Virginia Waynescot and Mary Newsome both lived with their father, Robert Newsome (10-11). By living with their father, the two daughters basically handed over their power because Robert
In Western culture we are born with the right of autonomy. It is believed that this right can never be taken away from us. We are born into this privilege of liberty and are given opportunities to grow and make our own choices without being oppressed or discouraged for them. We are free, or so we think we are. In the book Slave My True Story by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis (2003), Mende a 12 year old girl, is stripped of her happiness, childhood and most of all, her freedom.
Melton McLaurin vividly describes the life of a sexually abused slave who fought back in the non-fictional memoir titled Celia, A Slave. As the story began, the 1800s were impassioned with one civil disagreement between two sides of the United States—whether the nation should legally end or perpetuate human enslavement (16). Slavery was particularly and heavily supported by the citizens of the Calloway County, the home of Robert Newsom (19). The proof of increased crop production through slave labor convinced Newsom to begin his investment in black slaves (20). Having an increased number of farmhands allowed Newsom more time for relaxation and a higher social status. Soon, after understanding the ease of obtaining human property, Newsom
Celia, a Slave is the epitome of the relationship between slaves and their owners and also the slaves and other whites in the 1850’s. This is based on her interactions with her owner Robert Newsom and her reactions mainly with the community involved in her court case. These relationships affected more so the women slaves rather than the men slaves because of their weaker nature as perceived by the sexual differences of the time period between men and women in general. Slavery is questioned by the morals of the Northerners and some Southerners though it is common in the South so most Southerners reinforce the ideas of slavery with their own morals, believing slaves as meaningless because of their difference.
During the 1840s, America saw increasingly attractive settlements forming between the North and the South. The government tried to keep the industrial north and the agricultural south happy, but eventually the issue of slavery became too big to handle, no matter how many treaties or compromises were formed. Slavery was a huge issue that unraveled throughout many years of American history and was one of the biggest contributors leading up to the Civil War (notes, Fall 2015). Many books have been written over the years about slavery and the brutality of the life that many people endured. In “A Slave No More”, David Blight tells the story about two men, John M. Washington (1838-1918) and Wallace Turnage (1846-1916), struggling during American slavery. Their escape to freedom happened during America’s bloodiest war among many political conflicts, which had been splitting the country apart for many decades. As Blight (2007) describes, “Throughout the Civil War, in thousands of different circumstances, under changing policies and redefinitions of their status, and in the face of social chaos…four million slaves helped to decide what time it would be in American History” (p. 5). Whether it was freedom from a master or overseer, freedom from living as both property and the object of another person’s will, or even freedom to make their own decisions and control their own life, slaves wanted a sense of independence. According to Blight (2007), “The war and the presence of Union armies
Harriet Jacobs, a black woman who escapes slavery, illustrates in her biography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) that death is preferable to life as a slave due to the unbearable degradation of being regarded as property, the inevitable destruction of slave children’s innocence, and the emotional and physical pain inflicted by slave masters. Through numerous rhetorical strategies such as allusion, comparison, tone, irony, and paradoxical expression, she recounts her personal tragedies with brutal honesty. Jacobs’s purpose is to combat the deceptive positive portrayals of slavery spread by southern slave holders through revealing the true magnitude of its horrors. Her intended audience is uninvolved northerners, especially women, and she develops a personal and emotionally charged relationship with them.
Harriet Jacobs, in her narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was born into slavery in the south. While her youth contained “six years of happy childhood,” a few tragedies and mistresses later, Jacobs spent many years in pain under the possession of her cruel five-year-old mistress, Emily Flint, and Emily’s father, Dr. Flint. Once able to obtain freedom, Jacobs spent most of her life working for the Anti-Slavery office in New York, in hope that one day she could make a difference in the world. “She sought to win the respect and admiration of her readers for the courage with which she forestalled abuse and for the independence with which she chose a lover rather than having one forced on her” (Jacobs 921). Linda Brett, the pseudonym that Jacobs uses to narrate her life story, endures the harsh behavior women slaves were treated with in the south during the nineteenth century. The dominant theme of the corruptive power and psychological abuse of slavery, along with symbolism of good and evil, is demonstrated throughout her narrative to create a story that exposes the terrible captivity woman slaves suffered. The reality of slavery in the past, versus slavery today is used to reveal how the world has changed and grown in the idea of racism and neglect.
In the book 12 Years A Slave written from a primary source by Solomon Northup based on a true story describes the triumphant journey Solomon Northup goes through as he never lost hope of regaining his freedom and resisted the dehumanization of enslavement in many ways. Solomon was born a free black man in New York in 1808 while his father, Mintus was born a slave and gained his freedom as their master passed away also inheriting their masters last name "Northup". Growing Solomon worked on a farm with his dad and soon after his dad died in 1829 he soon married a women named Anne Hampton in which they soon moved to Saratoga Springs, New York and had three children of their own. They were living like any other free person was and soon Solomon was working in many industries and Anne established herself as a cook and in the 1830 's Solomon had a reputation of being a well played violinist. In 1841 Solomon had became unemployed and was looking for an occupation, he ran into Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton in who then offers him a job in a circus playing the violin. As they arrive in Washington D.C. which is slave territory, he begins to become sick and passes out which was planned by Merrill and Abram to poison and kidnap him in the slave territory and sell him in which he soon wakes up in chains in a slave pen. Solomon 's first master was James H. Burch who he was sold by the two men who had
Almost every character faces a moral decision throughout the novel. Celia, the main character in the novel is a slave. Sold to Robert Newsom, a wealthy landowner in Callaway County, at age fourteen, became the replacement for his late wife. From the time that Newsom first acquires Celia, he begins to rape her on a regular basis. For the next five years, Newsom continued to rape her, most likely fathering her