Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a slave child? Or how the slaves came to be in America?
- Slavery is not a new idea, but has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all kept slaves. Today, slaves are still kept in many parts of the world.
- As Europeans colonized the New World, they wanted cheap labor to work farms and construct roads and buildings. They began bringing African slaves to the Americas in the early 1600s.
- Slaves didn’t come willingly, of course. They were usually kidnapped, sometimes by their own people. Children were often taken from their villages as their parents worked in the fields. The children were gagged and tied up. They walked a long way to the ocean where they were put on boats headed across the Atlantic Ocean.
- The boats were terrible, stinking places. The enslaved people were tied up or chained and crowded together so tightly they couldn’t move. They had no choice but to lie in their own waste. Many became sick and died on the journey. Those that survived were sold at auctions when they reached America.
- Most slaves, especially strong men, worked in the fields caring for crops. Some worked in houses cooking, cleaning, and sewing. A few lucky ones became personal servants or nannies.
- A kidnapped child would arrive on a plantation scared, traumatized, and with no family. Other slaves often took the child in.
- Slave children often started working in the fields by age seven. The slave driver blew a whistle each morning, alerting the slaves to come to the fields where they worked for 12 hours or more in all kinds of weather.
- Slaves often had ragged clothing, worn (or no) shoes, and poor food. While some plantation owners were kind, many were not. Whippings were common.
- For many years, it was against the law to teach a slave to read or write.
- Families were often split up. A slave could be sold and sent away from his family.
Watch a video about slave life.