Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Quotes
by Catherine Clinton

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The clothes that I wore did not amount to much, just a one-piece dress or gown. In shape, this was more like a gunnysack, with a hole cut in the bottom for me to stick my head thru, and the corners cut out for armholes. We never wore underclothes, not even in the winter...We never had more than one at a time, and when they had to be washed, we went naked until they had dried.

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Slave parents lived in abject terror of separation from their children. This fear, perhaps, more than any other aspect of the institution, revealed the deeply dehumanizing horror of slavery.

In the above quotes, the speaker describes her harrowing experience as a child of slaves. Slave children were treated as bartering objects by their owners and had fewer rights than their parents. Many slave parents had to live with the prospect of permanent separation from their children. The slave children soon became a persistent threat to their owners, however. Although slave owners had little fear of their power being encroached upon, things would soon change.

...Maryland law took a dramatic turn in 1712, when the colonial legislators adopted a new measure: the status of a child would follow the status of its mother, partus sequitur ventrem. This statute overturned centuries of patriarchal tradition and law. The radical shift was in response to sex across the color line, most especially white males coupling with slave women.

In the above quote, we see the stark reality of life for slave children. Although white women were persecuted and legally penalized for entering into relationships with black men, their husbands could freely indulge their sexual proclivities. Miscegenation laws applied only to white women, not their male counterparts. In fact, white slave owners often bedded their female slaves. The result, of course, was an increase in mulatto children.

Prior to the Civil War, mulattoes were considered slaves for life. The mulatto child of a white woman, however, was not. For their part, white slave owners feared the rise in mulatto children, despite their contribution to the state of affairs. They believed that an increase in the mulatto...

(The entire section is 542 words.)