Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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Why was slavery terrible for slaves?  

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There are two main types of reasons why slavery was terrible for slaves.

First, slavery was terrible because slaves lived in very poor material conditions.  Slaves typically lived in very small, one-room huts or shacks.  Their owners gave them enough food so that they could work, but they did not...

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There are two main types of reasons why slavery was terrible for slaves.

First, slavery was terrible because slaves lived in very poor material conditions.  Slaves typically lived in very small, one-room huts or shacks.  Their owners gave them enough food so that they could work, but they did not give them much more than that and they did not give them much variety in their food.  Most slaves had to engage in hard, physical labor all day long, six days per week.  All of this meant that being a slave would have been physically unpleasant most of the time.

However, this is not the major problem with slavery.  Millions of poor white people suffered from a lack of material goods.  Millions of poor white people had to work hard almost all the time.  What really made slavery much worse was the fact that slaves belonged to another person who could treat them however he or she wanted.  This meant that slaves were extremely insecure and vulnerable.

Imagine what it would be like to have someone else own you and have complete control over you.  That person could do anything he or she wanted.  You would know that your owner could, at any time, sell you to someone else.  This would mean that you would be taken away from any family that you had.  Equally, your owner could sell your family members.  Either of these things meant that, without any warning, you might never see your parents, siblings, spouse, or children again.  Imagine how helpless and vulnerable you would feel.

Imagine knowing that someone else had the right to do anything they wanted to your body.  Slaves could be beaten and even killed (though this was uncommon since killing a slave was like destroying your own property) if their owners felt it was the right thing to do.  Male slaveowners could and did use female slaves for sexual purposes.  In other words, you could be beaten or raped at any point and there would be nothing you or anyone else could do about it.  Once again, how would this make you feel?

Finally, imagine that you know that your entire life will be like this.  Furthermore, imagine that you know that any children or grandchildren you have will have this same life.  Wouldn’t that be a very hopeless feeling?

Thus, the main reason why slavery was terrible was because the slaves were someone else’s property.  This meant that they were susceptible to having all sorts of terrible things happen to them because their owner wanted to do those things.  This would have been a horrible thing because it would have made many slaves feel hopeless, helpless, and vulnerable.

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