The idea behind human morality and the difference between right and wrong has been explored in various situations all throughout history. Celia, A Slave, a book by Melton A. McLaurin was one example of this exploration. This book tells a true story about the life of a slave and what legal rights she held in 1855 Missouri, along with other slaves in similar situations. Slave women lacked many basic rights simply because they were viewed as property. Female slaves did have few rights, but these rights were hollow promises given by legislature to keep anti-slavery protestors from having a reason to lead a rebellion. Due to the economic gain slaveholders had over other farmers who did not use slaves to tend their crops people suppressed their moral judgements and did what was best for the economy instead of fulfilling the need for human righteousness. Slave women could be bought for many reasons by a slave owner. In many situations they are bought to tend the fields with the other slaves, or tend to the household duties. Celia however, the slave in McLaurin’s book, was not bought for any of these reasons. As Celia did help in the kitchen of her master’s home, that was not the reason Newsom bought her. Celia was bought as a concubine. Newsom bought Celia to rape her at his own will. This brings up a basic right that slave women did not hold, the right to their own bodies. As McLaurin claims in his book, a historian wrote “virtually every known nineteenth-century female slave
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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.
Melton McLaurin’s book Celia, A Slave is the account of the trial, conviction, and execution of a female slave for the murder of her “master” Robert Newsom in 1855. The author uses evidence compiled through studying documents from Callaway County, Missouri and the surrounding area during the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Although much of what can be determine about this event is merely speculation, McLaurin proposes arguments for the different motives that contribute to the way in which many of the events unfold. Now throughout the book the “main characters”, being Celia, her lawyer Jameson, and the judge William Hall, are all faced with moral decisions that affect the lives of two different people.
In a time period when women were considered inferior, as were blacks, it was unimaginable the horrors a black woman in the south had to endure during this period. African women were slaves and subject to the many horrors that come along with being in bondage, but because they were also women, they were subject to the cruelties of men who look down on women as inferior simply because of their sex. The sexual exploitation of these females often lead to the women fathering children of their white masters. Black women were also prohibited from defending themselves against any type of abuse, including sexual, at the hands of white men. If a slave attempted to defend herself she was often subjected to further beatings from the master. The black female was forced into sexual relationships for the slave master’s pleasure and profit. By doing this it was the slave owner ways of helping his slave population grow.
Slavery was common in the eighteenth century. Slaves were seen as property, as they were taken from their native land and forced into long hours of labor. The experience was traumatic for both black men and black women. They were physically and mentally abused by slave owners, dehumanized by the system, and ultimately denied their fundamental rights to a favorable American life. Although African men and women were both subjected to the same enslavement, men and women had different experiences in slavery based on their gender. A male perspective can be seen in, My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass. A female perspective is shared in Harriet Jacobs’ narrative titled, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Upon reading both of the viewpoints provided, along with outside research, one can infer that women had it worse.
In the book Celia, A Slave written by Melton A. McLaurin’s was an analysis of the trial and execution of Celia, a slave in Callaway County, Missouri who kills her master and burns his body in her fireplace. The initial argument is that Celia’s case offers important insights into how enslaved women were completely powerless to protect themselves from sexual abuse, and how the moral ambiguity caused by slavery is often reconciled in the courts, whose rulings alleviate white Southerners’ crisis of conscience when confronted with the “hard daily realities of slavery”.
“Rather slavery was institution fundamental to the existence of southern society, a permanent part of the southern way of life” (18). Slave ownership increases the citizen’s social and economic status. In this case, Robert Newsom purchasing the young slave Celia, is not going to increase his social status. Robert needs a sex partner, whom Celia, a slave, fulfill these duties. Robert continuously rapes Celia, who is supposed to be her master. Through the five years of being raped by her master, Celia warns the whole household, including George a male slave who she is having relations with also. Celia is telling them that if it do not stop she is going to hurt him. No one listens including Robert, Celia hits him, not intentionally trying to kill him.
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
The main purpose for purchasing her was to help his daughters with the housework since his wife had passed away. Celia later then in 1855 began a relationship with one of the five slaves Robert Newsom owned named George. It was at this time Celia found out she was pregnant and did not know which of the two men would be the father of her child. George, to who is her intimate partner said, “he would have nothing more to do with her if she did not quit the old man.” according to (JRank Articles) Celia then decided she would include Newsom’s daughters Mary, who is the same age as Celia, and Virginia, 36, that her pregnancy is making her ill and she would appreciate if their father would respect her condition and leave her alone. “There was no indication that either Newsom daughters challenged her father.” In accordance with (JRank Articles) On June 23, 1855 during the morning time, Celia pleaded to her master, but he blatantly disregarded her wishes and said “I am coming to your cabin tonight.” according to (JRank Articles) Later that afternoon, Celia brought a piece of wood the size of a chair leg, but no bigger than to defend herself from her master of his obscene actions towards her. When Robert Newsom arrived that night and refused to leave Celia alone, she banged her master’s head twice and ended up killing him. Celia was frantic, for her intentions weren’t to kill her
Celia, a Slave was a truthful elucidation of one disengaged episode that delineated basic slave dread amid the prior to the war time of the United States. Melton A. McLaurin, utilized this record of a youthful slave lady 's battle through the undeserved hardships of assault and unfairness to disclose to today 's guileless society a superior delineation of what servitude could have been similar to. The tale of Celia delineates the base of racial issues Americans still face in their general public. In spite of the fact that not about as great, they keep on living in a white-male overwhelmed society that looks downward on African-Americans, particularly females. McLaurin takes a gander at the perspectives of the time, and conjectures the probabilities of this pre - Civil War time, the estimations of which still puncture every day life in the United States.
She was forced to have sex with Robert Newsom for years, and as a result had two kids from him. Celia wanted to continue with her relationship with George, another enslaved black owned by Robert Newsom, therefore she decided to stand up to Newsom and his hurtful actions. Celia confronted Newsom before the incident to inform him not to come to her cabin that night and if he did she would harm him. This was Celia laying out her expectations and letting Newsom know that she was not okay with the sexual abuse. It all comes down to Celia protecting and defending herself from Newsom taking advantage from her. Black slaves were faced with sexual exploitations from white men, especially their owners, female slaves had a few options but to submit to these demands. Celia warned Newsom of what was to come if he continued to press her to have sex with him, so in the end she killed Newsom out of self-defense and to protect her two children. Celia did not want to have to kill Newsom. She did not have a gruesome plan like the plans Nat Turner and his followers had in killing all the innocent white men, women, and children.
Every man, woman, and child that is born unto this earth is given one thing; free will. Or at least in theory. That is not to say that in every society, there are consequences for actions or that everyone is to be allowed to run rampant doing what they want. But most restrictions today, at least legally, are enforced so as to not infringe on someone else’s right to freedom. In Celia, a Slave, Melton A. McLaurin’s interpretation of events that happened to a young unfortunate slave in the antebellum period, we are shown a glimpse at the frustratingly futile effort fought to give a slave women the right to self-defense against someone who encroached on something that everyone should have the right to have. Melton has written many books that gives insight of life in the south, such as The Knights of Labor in the South, and Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South. His take on this historic trial gives such an honest insight that someone from anywhere else but the south, could not have given.
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.
When you have slaves that is showing people the amount of wealth you have. The slave owner that purchased Celia Robert Newsom already owned five. “While it is possible that Newsom harbored some moral ambiguity about slave ownership, it is far more likely that he regarded it as a fitting reward for his years of labor, an indication of the social status he achieved through his own efforts” (McLaurin 8) When Celia enters the Newsom farm at the age of fourteen she is raped by her master on the way to the house. It is showed that he purchases her after the passing of his wife. One of the lines in the book says “ a healthy sixty years of age, Newsom needed more than a hostess…he requires a sexual partner.” (McLaurin 18) So people won’t have suspicions on what’s