African Americans--Enslaved People



While Cambridge Dictionary defines an enslaved person as "a person who is legally owned by someone else and has no personal freedom" (Cambridge Dictionary), CWRGM adopts the term for the people who were subjected to the practice of race-based enslavement in the nineteenth-century United States chattel slavery system. Slavery in the United States varied greatly over time and geography. However, its most common form was that of race-based chattel slavery in which people of African descent were viewed and treated as property.

Methods of work also varied based on region, but those enslaved in Deep South states like Mississippi typically worked under the gang labor system in which, under the supervision of overseers, "gangs of slaves worked their ways through fields, plowing, thinning, hoeing, chopping, picking, or whatever else the day's assignment might be" (Mississippi Encyclopedia). The U.S.'s slave labor system subjected the enslaved to extreme violence, physical, psychological, and often sexual, and brutal working conditions and decreased individual autonomy.

Both state and federal legal systems also rendered escape or freedom nearly impossible in the South. For example, the Fugitive Slave Act at the national level required all people, even northerners, to return runaway slaves, rendering an escape to freedom extremely difficult. Mississippi's slave codes specifically implemented slave patrols, pass systems, corporal punishment, supervision of all religious gatherings, and the requirement that an African American person have proof of freedom at all times to curtail the already few rights of enslaved and free African Americans. Mississippi's status as a hub of the domestic slave trade, the individual autonomy whites possessed to punish the enslaved, and frequent abuse of the law by slave patrols increased the likelihood that even a free Black person could be captured and sold into slavery.

Despite this adversity, the enslaved in Mississippi and elsewhere resisted and exercised agency in multiple ways. Some enslaved persons directly resisted by running away or violently rebelling, while others chose indirect methods like breaking tools, intentionally working slowly, or feigning illness or injury. The enslaved also maintained their agency and autonomy by crafting networks of kinship and family both within and across plantations, cultivating gardens for their own use, performing gender roles of their own choosing, and holding social and religious gatherings infused with unique cultural and social elements (Mississippi Encyclopedia).

See also:

Related Subjects

Related subjects

The graph displays the other subjects mentioned on the same pages as the subject "African Americans--Enslaved People". If the same subject occurs on a page with "African Americans--Enslaved People" more than once, it appears closer to "African Americans--Enslaved People" on the graph, and is colored in a darker shade. The closer a subject is to the center, the more "related" the subjects are.