Midterm Question 1
The Effects of Slavery on African American Children
The practice of slavery caused the suffering of millions of African Americans from the year 1619 until the 13th amendment finally abolished the practice in 1865. Throughout a nearly 250-year span, an estimated 12 million Africans were forced into slavery by Americans, with a fourth being youth and adolescents (1). Slave owners considered slave children to be investments for the future and assets with monetary value, rather than children. Despite being considered assets, young slave children lived in conditions no better than the rest of the slaves, suffering starvation, disease, and constant physical as well as psychological abuse (1). Slave children who grew and developed within a life of bondage required great resilience, or the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity if they were to survive. In order to help children to cope with the brutal conditions under slave owners, African Americans created their own culture and sense of community, as one large family. The purpose of this paper is to explain in detail the day to day life of African American children in slavery including family, work, and play and how these factors each helped children to be resilient and cope with their surroundings.
To begin, African American slaves acted as a community and family for one another out of necessity because families were often split up, with fathers and teenagers often being sold off (2). Children lived in fear that they could be split up from their own family and no one could stop the slave owners from doing so (3). Often, mothers and fathers who were separated could only see their family once a week or on the weekends. They would have to walk miles, late at night after all of their master's work was finished. So, parents began teaching their children that other adult slaves were their aunties and uncles, and other slave children were their sisters and brothers, whether they were indeed related or not (3). Teaching children that African Americans were a community and family gave children a greater sense of family and some reassurance that there would always be family close. Mothers usually had to return to work soon after giving birth as well, so elderly slaves and the youngest children took care of multiple infants together (2). Though the infant death rate was high due to inadequate diets and unsanitary living conditions, many children remained resilient and used the support of others to survive (3).
While masters would separate slave families without remorse, they also encouraged families among the slaves. Slave owners believed that benefits came with families. They considered families to be an investment because the slaves could reproduce. A family structure could be considered a safety measure as well because slaves were less likely to run away if they had a husband, wife, or children (2). Some slaves were allowed the choice of who their...