The owner of the plantation was the undisputed master of his estate. His family lived in a nice big house that had been bleached to make it cooler. The slaves lived apart in small huts.

Each plantation was designed to be self-sufficient; that is to say, to produce everything it needed. About 10 to 20% of slaves had a specific task: blacksmith, carpenter, shoemaker, servant, midwife, etc. The rest of the slaves worked in the fields.

The presence of large numbers of Africans influenced life on the plantations. The hot and humid climates of Virginia, Carolina and Georgia resembled that of West Africa. Like in Africa, people worked early in the morning and late at night, but rested during the midday. While the Puritans in the North condemned leisure and rest, the southerners adopted a slower lifestyle.

Although they were subjected to the wishes of their masters, slaves tried to retain some of their independence. Since families could be separated when one parent was sold, the extended family therefore became very important in caring for children. Once they had finished their work for the master, some slaves could work in their own garden, raise chickens, hunt and fish. This allowed them to round out their usual diet of corn and salted pork. A few rare individuals even managed to save enough money to buy their freedom. 

 Author: Léon Robichaud

See also – Traces of the past:

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