Thursday, March 17, 2011


Many people have heard so many different things about slavery and the life of living on a plantation and what occured during those times. The following blog will give readers insight to not only the plantation life as a whole. the readers will gain knowledge to how the people who contributed to the plantation life known as slaves lived their life there. It will discuss the roles that plantation wives played and how women and children worked and the kind of rules they had to abide by with living on a plantation. It will tell you about the type of education they was allowed to receive. also it will talk about the life in the manor and the religion that they practiced while living on a plantation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Plantation Wives

During 1820-1860, wives of plantation owners gained their identity through “housework” and family.  Idealized notions about the feminine home and the masculine workplace gained acceptance in the 1830s (and well beyond) because of the cultural dominance of the middle and upper classes of the Northeast, expressed through books and periodicals that reflected these gender ideals (Roark, et. al., 2009).  Plantation wives typically married at the age of twenty.  The plantation wives of higher classes of society had husbands that brought home majority of the money.  However, if you were a plantation wife of poorer classes of society, they were not able to depend solely on their husband for majority of the income.  They had to gain money by being a servant.   All plantation wives of every class worked leisurely hours cleaning the house, preparing meals, tending to children, disciplining the slaves, sewing, and tending to the sick.  Even when the plantation wives became pregnant, they were expected to work at the same pace as they did before pregnancy. 

Being a plantation wife did not mean you were able to socialize with nearby neighbors because your husband made a good earning.  They worked as hard as the house slaves they owned, and in some cases harder (Gustafsson, 1999).  These wives were so distracted with “chores.”  They did not get the privilege to mingle with friends and neighbors.  Not only did they have to tend to every person that lived in the plantation, they also had to tend to visitors that might stay.  When plantation owners died, it was not unknown for his widow to successfully take over the running of the land (Gustafsson, 1999).

-Amanda Tyus

Regimentation and Regulation

When thinking of the regimentation of plantation life, slavery is synonymous.  The plantation owners and oversees were fearful of revolts by slaves so they instituted strict regimens and living regulations.  The owners used the regimens to ensure control.  As the article by Mark Smith shows, life for slaves on a plantation was strictly regulated by time.  As true of most plantations, a bell was sounded at 0400 to awaken the slaves, a bell at 0430 signaled the time to start work, a bell around noon signaled mealtime and a short rest period, and a bell at dusk meant quitting time.  The entire lives of slaves revolved around the ringing of a bell, and were enforced by slashes of the whip by overseers.  Slaves’ lives were regulated by the owners in almost every aspect.  There food was rationed to them on a weekly basis and oftentimes withheld as a means of punishment for a runaway or a less productive worker.  Not only was there food rationed, they were given the same diet daily. Slaves were provided with usually 2 sets of clothes per year only.  The type, color, material, and make of the clothes were decided by the owners and uniform throughout the ranks. Many owners wouldn’t allow pockets for fear of theft.  Slaves rest time was limited to nights, and Sundays only.  The housing was strictly controlled, and usually divided among the slaves according to what job they performed (Thomas, B. 1998).  Slaves were further regulated even through legislation, which banned the owning of firearms by slaves, and even toward the turn of the century prohibited alcohol consumption by blacks.  Many plantation owners had contracts with a local physician, but they alone decided if and when medical treatment would be allowed.
            Other examples of the regimentation of plantation life in regards to slaves were the treatment of family units. Slaves were allowed and even encouraged to marry and have children, since this would guarantee future slaves for the plantation without purchase.  Families were allowed to occupy one room areas within the slave quarters to promote the health of future generations (Schwartz, M. 1996).   Families were allowed, but their functions were still strictly mandated by the owners.  Women were allowed usually one month after confinement to care for babies to ensure good health of the future generations.  Women were given scheduled nursing breaks during the work time also.  Children had some degree of freedom until the age of 10-12 years when they entered the fields.  The owners provided lessons to the children in order to promote their being seen as the ones in charge and undermine the authority of parents, thereby preventing rebellious ideals and confusion as to who as superior (Phillips, U. 1938).  Rules and regimented lives of the slaves were in place to ensure order and control on a plantation where owners were constantly in fear of rebellion.  By controlling every aspect of the slaves’ lives, they projected power and superiority onto themselves.

Melissa Armstrong

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Plantation Education

A Virginian plantation home with tutor Philip Vickers Fithian
During the 1800's, formal education was not of great importance for the general masses residing on plantations. Social education such as social obligations and social status were held as most important. Most young girls were taught how to run a plantation and other subject on being a good wife. The childern were also taught reading, writing, ciphering, dance and music. Children education was not a public issue. It was a private subject, decided upon by the parents, mostly the fathers. This thought held true until the creation of the University system beginning with University of Pennsylvania created by Benjamin Franklin. Up until the University system was created, most children of wealthy planters had at home tutors or the sons were sent to England for formal learning.
However, there are two additional education systems during this era. The white non-elite would have limited access to an education through the church. Oft times the church was the centerpiece of the educational system for poor whites because it had the greatest exposure to the general masses of that population. Blacks/slaves and poor whites in general did not receive an education in the plantation environment. In most regions, teaching blacks to read/write was illegal and could result in severe punishment including death/lynching. The religious leaders taught religion to slave by word of mouth only. They agreed with the slave owners, it was dangerous to teach a slave to read or write. That could lead to an uprising. The poor whites did not fair much better on the plantation in respect to being educated. Even though it was not illegal to teach poor whites to read/write, it simply was not a priority therefore not pursued. Education for the general masses of the population in whole did not occur until the turn of the 20th century.

Plantation Life 1820-1860.

In order to understand our history, we must learn about plantation life. Plantations were characterized by large acreage- in the thousands, and slavery. During the period of the 1820s-1860s, cotton production was the primary source of income. Plantation owners, looking to create a greater profit, acquired slaves to work their crops. As a result, the economy was thriving, thus increasing the use of slave labor. During this time, wealth was primarily measured by the number of acres and the number of slaves you owned- the more you had, the wealthier you were. All of the owner's profits were a direct result of slave labor. Slaves were not looked upon as human beings but as property and therefore treated accordingly. These events resulted in so much sorrow, so much pain, and all in the name of advancement and wealth.
The purpose of this presentation is to simply inform you of the living conditions and lives of the people involved during this plantation life era- owners and slaves alike. Also as you read, think of how these events may have played a role in making the America we are now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


The manor, the primary residence of a slave owner and his family, was a sprawling mansion sitting a great distance from the road, with one main pathway leading to its door. The well-manicured lawn, often surrounded by flower gardens and fruitful trees, highlighted the beauty of the mansion. Almost always a two-story home, with formal living spaces downstairs and bedrooms upstairs, was built by a combination of free and enslaved workers. The interior boasted high ceilings, spacious rooms, decorated with lavish period furnishings. Towards the back of the mansion, were the kitchen, laundry, and the house slave quarters. A few slaves worked solely and lived in the mansion, to cook, clean, and care for the plantation owner's children on a twenty-four hour basis. According to Potts, (n.d.), the mistress of the manor was a gracious hostess to her many guests and was responsible for the overseeing of the domestic duties of the home, because the master spent most of his time away from the home.
A few hundred yards away from the manor, was the slave quarters. The quarters were close enough to provide easy access to the fields and the manor, but well hidden from the road as not to subtract from the beauty of the manor and to provide the family with some privacy. Some slaves were given materials to build their own accommodations, while others inherited cabins already in existence. Slaves often patterned their homes after their homes in Africa. According to Shah (n.d.), the quarters, situated in a row, some only twelve square feet, would house up to two or more families. The wood-framed cabin’s roves were made out of thatch or tin. Some cabins had dirt floors, no beds, and no windows, but later emphasis was placed on elevated some structures to make them waterproof. Slaves worked from dusk to dawn, leaving little time for family life, except after dusk, Saturday afternoons and Sundays. According to Roarke, (2009), the small yards in front of the cabins, on the weekend, became a meeting place for recreational activities.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Women and children working on the Plantations

In the 17th century ,during the Colonial Experience, the European colonists separated the 13 colonies into three distinctive groups: The New England, Middle and Southern colonies. However, the plantation system was spread between the New England and Southern colonies because there were crops grown in these colonies that required intensive labor work such as tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar cane. Unfortunately, approximately 95% of these plantation workers were women and children despite many issues. As described on the Spartacus Educational website, the writer illustrates that, “Slaves were in the fields from sunrise to sunset and at harvest time they did an eighteen hour day. Women worked the same hours as the men and pregnant women were expected to continue until their child was born.” These were some of the many issues that made the Colonial Experience in the United States a negative one.
Coming from the West Indies and African countries, many of these women were forced to work on these long plantations because of the tremendous demand for laborers by the Europeans. Although the African American women shared some of their workload with white mistresses and servant girls, they were still given the hardest tasks on the plantation, as explained in an article by Aaron Sinn entitled, “Economic Role of African American Women on the Plantation.” Sinn continues to explain that:

Slave women spent a good deal of time working indoors, too. Some worked to mend and make fabrics and clothing. Others helped within the kitchen and around the home, cleaning and picking up after the plantation owners and their offspring. Black women were often shifted in and out of indoor jobs and field jobs as both punishment and reward for winning or losing favor from the plantation owners (Sinn 1).
However, many of these skills used by these women were learned working in their homelands in similar jobs. This leads some people to ask what is the difference between working in their homelands and on the plantations in America?  The answer is, they weren’t forced to carry out these tasks in their homes and when they were carrying a child, they weren’t forced to work during their pregnancy.
Additionally, overworking these women (which later caused many of their deaths), led the plantation owners to convince the few left to have as much children as they could. Child-bearing started around the age of thirteen, and by twenty the women slaves would be expected to have four or five children. To encourage childbearing some population owners promised women slaves their freedom after they had produced fifteen children (Spartacus Educational).
Born into slavery, children of slaves were considered slaves from birth. Although children younger than ten years old were rarely separated from their families, many unfortunately separated when plantations were sold. A slave’s diet (including children) consisted of weekly rations of corn and left over meat if they didn’t have a farm. Consuming this small serving of food, the children were required to work on tobacco plantations as young as the age of seven (Slavery on the Plantation). Luckily, younger children ran small errands or played on the field most of the day.