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Slavery in Antebellum America

“This was the life of those who came not of their own free will but where brought by force. This was a life without hope for a bright future, a life filled with uncertainty and misery. This was the life of slaves in America” (Buell 6). It is believed that the first slaves came to Virginia in 1619. “In 1619, the first black slaves were brought to America. They worked in the tobacco fields around Jamestown, Virginia” (Kallen 9). African slaves did hard, often inhumanly hard work. The most horrible was the fact that the family could be sold in parts – and that happened frequently. Slaves were seen as things. And if so, there were not any rights and desires for them. “African slaves were denied the right to simple humanity, because legally, they were property” (O’Shea & Walker 137). The family was probably the most important social institution created by slaves. And this despite the fact that the official law marriages between slaves were recognized as invalid. But husband and wife treated them very seriously creating a stable monogamous family. "Families" of slaves represented more than just men, women, and their children living together. A family was usually understood as a wider group of people, which included many "relatives" unrelated by blood.  A very important source of solace and self-esteem were religious communities. Over time, more and more slaves adopted Christianity becoming Baptists or Methodists. Often, slaves arranged their own masses where white people were not allowed. It was a strange mixture of African and Christian traditions: slaves danced and sang hymns to their God. They prayed to their Savior, Friend of the poor and oppressed and believed that the day of celebration would come, when they, like the ancient Israelites, would be spared from the Pharaoh’s bondage.

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