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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
A Nation Divided
(1840-1861)

Slave Life



Slave Life
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.9

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    breaker, brutality, desirable, undermine, genuine, humanity, provided, illegal, outdoor, slavery, disrespectful, starvation, presented, generally, possibly, better
     content words:    United States


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Slave Life
By Mary L. Bushong
  

1     Do you know what a slave is? Any person could be a slave. It is someone who has no control over his or her life. They can be bought or sold and have nothing to say about it. Slavery has occurred in almost every culture since the beginning of time, but what we are going to talk about here is slaves in the United States.
 
2     There was nothing easy about the life of a slave. They generally worked either in the house or in the fields. For house slaves, all the cooking and cleaning was done by hand. They were often the ones to take care of any children of their master. While they sometimes received better food, their working days were longer because of lights in the house.
 
3     Field slaves would work from dawn until dusk. The work was back breaking, and overseers often did not care if a slave was worked to death. Until the early 1800's slaves were cheap. If one died, they would just go to the slave market and buy another one.
 
4     If a slave was thought to be disrespectful or did not do their work correctly, punishment was often brutal. It was not unusual for them to be beaten or whipped. One slave, who eventually escaped slavery, was hit in the head with something heavy that the overseer threw at her. She nearly died, but recovered after several months. She suffered from terrible headaches the rest of her life. Other slaves were punished with starvation, sold to a harder master, or possibly sent to a slave breaker.
 
5     A slave breaker was a man who did not see slaves as other people. He saw them only as animals and treated them that way. His tools were chains, whips, starvation, and exhaustion from work. His goal was to make the slave lose all hope of being free. Some men thought a good slave no longer thought of themselves as human and did not care what happened to themselves any longer.

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