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Sun Feb 25, 2018, 12:03 PM

Charles Ball describing being taken from his mother forever.

Recently in this space, I was describing the pain of reading the book The Half Has Never Been Told about the relationship between the origins of all American wealth, past and present, and human slavery:

I can only read this book in short spurts until the pain becomes too great. Read it, I must.

The early chapter makes considerable reference to the autobiographical work of the escaped slave Charles Ball, Slavery in the United States: a narrative of the life and adventures of Charles Ball, a black man, who lived forty years in Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia, as a slave,

Yesterday during my library research into other topics connected with my scientific work, I paused to download an electronic version of Ball's book, which begins with a description of being taken from his mother.

I reproduce a portion here:

My story is a true one, and I shall tell it in a simple style. It will be merely a recital of my life as a slave in the Southern States of the Union—a description of negro slavery in the “model Republic.”

My grandfather was brought from Africa and sold as a slave in Calvert county, in Maryland. I never understood the name of the ship in which he was imported, nor the name of the planter who bought him on his arrival, but at the time I knew him he was a slave in a family called Maud, who resided near Leonardtown. My father was a slave in a family named Hauty, living near the same place. My mother was the slave of a tobacco planter, who died when [Page 10] I was about four years old. My mother had several children, and they were sold upon master’s death to separate purchasers. She was sold, my father told me, to a Georgia trader. I, of all her children, was the only one left in Maryland. When sold I was naked, never having had on clothes in my life, but my new master gave me a child’s frock, belonging to one of his own children. After he had purchased me, he dressed me in this garment, took me before him on his horse, and started home; but my poor mother, when she saw me leaving her for the last time, ran after me, took me down from the horse, clasped me in her arms, and wept loudly and bitterly over me. My master seemed to pity her; and endeavored to soothe her distress by telling her that he would be a good master to me, and that I should not want anything. She then, still holding me in her arms, walked along the road beside the horse as he moved slowly, and earnestly and imploringly besought my master to buy her and the rest ofher children, and not permit them to be carried away by the negro buyers; but whilst thus entreating him to save her and her family, the slave-driver, who had first bought her, came running in pursuit of her with a raw-hide in his hand. When he overtook us, he told her he was her master now, and ordered her to give that little negro to its owner, and come back with him. [Page 11]

My mother then turned to him and cried, “Oh, master, do not take me from my child!” Without making any reply, he gave her two or three heavy blows on the shoulders with his raw-hide, snatched me from her arms, handed me to my master, and seizing her by one arm, dragged her back towards the place of sale. My master then quickened the pace of his horse; and as we advanced, the cries of my poor parent became more and more indistinct—at length they died away in the distance, and I never again heard the voice of my poor mother. Young as I was, the horrors of that day sank deeply into my heart, and even at this time, though half a century has elapsed, the terrors of the scene return with painful vividness upon my memory. Frightened at the sight of the cruelties inflicted upon my poor mother, I forgot my own sorrows at parting from her and clung to my new master, as an angel and a saviour, when compared with the hardened fiend into whose power she had fallen. She had been a kind and good mother to me; had warmed me in her bosom in the cold nights of winter; and had often divided the scanty pittance of food allowed her by her mistress, between my brothers, and sisters, and me, and gone supperless to bed herself. Whatever victuals she could obtain beyond the coarse food, salt fish and corn bread, allowed to slaves on the Patuxent and Potomac rivers, she carefully, distributed [Page 12] among her children, and treated us with all the tenderness which her own miserable condition would permit. I have no doubt that she was chained and driven to Carolina, and toiled out the residue of a forlorn and famished existence in the rice swamps, or indigo fields of the South.

My father never recovered from the effects of the shock, which this sudden and overwhelming ruin of his family gave him...

Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable...

Lest we forget, this is who we are.

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Reply Charles Ball describing being taken from his mother forever. (Original post)
NNadir Feb 2018 OP
MaryMagdaline Feb 2018 #1
Atticus Feb 2018 #2
lostnfound Feb 2018 #3
PoindexterOglethorpe Mar 2018 #4
NNadir Mar 2018 #5
PoindexterOglethorpe Mar 2018 #6

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sun Feb 25, 2018, 12:09 PM

1. Dear god this is so horrible

I often look around and wonder how many Americans descend from slave drivers. Is the sadistic gene still present? I really don't have to wonder too long

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sun Feb 25, 2018, 12:14 PM

2. White or black, if you claim to be human, READ THIS! nt

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sun Feb 25, 2018, 08:20 PM

3. This may seem forever ago, but I briefly had the services of a maid...

Who did light housekeeping in expensive apartments in Chicago, even though she was probably 65 already. She told me she’d grown up in the south and that her own mother or father was born to a parent who had been freed from slavery. So her grandparent had been a slave.

My own grandmother was born in 1861, though neither a slave nor a slaveowner.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Mon Mar 5, 2018, 12:01 PM

4. In the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

one of the white women in it comments that the slaves are't at all attached to their children. A few pages later the same white woman is very annoyed that one of her slaves is still grieving over her child be sold off to another owner. Stowe, the author, clearly understands the complete disconnect on the part of the white character, cognitive dissonance is probably the better word, and total unwillingness to grant slaves the same feelings and emotions as she has.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #4)

Tue Mar 6, 2018, 03:41 AM

5. You know, I never actually read that book, but it might be interesting to do so.

Introduced to Stowe, Lincoln is said to have remarked during the war he managed, "So you're the little woman who started this war."

I abhor war, but if there was ever one necessary to fight, that probably was it. Slavery itself was war with all its essentials, murder, torture, rape, plunder.

"The Half Has Never Been Told" is really shaking me.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #5)

Tue Mar 6, 2018, 12:43 PM

6. Please give it a try.

Back in the 90s NPR's Talk of the Nation did a Bookclub of the Air once a month for a year or so. One month the selected book was Uncle Tom's Cabin. I'd never read it and thought the deadline would be a good incentive to do so, even though I expected it to be a slog.

It wasn't. Oh, the first fifty pages or so were a bit slow by modern standards, then things picked up and I simply could not put it down. A lot of the power of the book is that it was written a decade before the Civil War, and even passionate abolitionists could not foresee a time when slavery was gone from this country. Unlike every pre-Civil War novel written after 1865, because those always contain the underlying knowledge that slavery will end.

There's another scene that is incredibly powerful. It's after Eliza escapes to Ohio and has sought refuge with a family willing to harbor and aid escaping slaves, despite the laws against that. (There's even a lengthy discussion about this a bit earlier.) Clothes are needed for a baby or toddler (I've forgotten the specifics), and the woman of the house goes to get them. She has buried a young child just weeks before. Stowe then writes this: And oh mother that reads this, has there never been in your house a drawer or a closet, the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a little grave? Oh happy mother that you are if it has not been so.

Losing a child was common, but no less grief encumbered than it is today when we expect all of our children to live to grow up.

By the way, I had not actually memorized that excerpt, but discovered the book is available to read on line on Good Reads. I knew about where to find that scene, and was able to skim until I could do so.

I hope you are able to read it soon.

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