The Bible gave hope to slaves but what would make those that were held in low regard, believe that they were biblical characters? Recall that they were held in such low regard that the name given to them became an insult. The New Testament reveals that Jesus ministered to the “undesirables.” Jesus accepted those that were discarded and disliked by the tribe. Jesus gave comfort to the lame, the blind, the sick, the deformed and the informant. Jesus was not in good favor with the aristocrats of the temple and chose to go where he was really needed and his message was appreciated. Jesus preferred humility over vanity, compassion over indifference, empathy over cruelty, self-sacrificing over self-centeredness and forgiveness over vindictiveness. In a world dominated by the rich and the strong, these beliefs are often ignored.
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free
Mary Reynolds said slavery was “things past tellin'.” Slavery was things hidden in darkness. Details of slavery were not published or photographed. The horrors of slavery were not revealed until run-away slaves revealed their experiences. It was a simple book called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that brought the inhumanity of slavery to light, which ignited a debate.
Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said when he met Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin was by no measure a literary masterpiece. It was highly romantic and stereotypical, but it served to personalize slavery and its horrors for many readers throughout the world.
“No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You can not slave for God and for riches." (Matthew 6:24)
John Newton was a slave trader that turned into an abolitionist. He said "that he knew no method of getting money which had so direct a tendency to efface the moral sense, to rob the heart of every gentle and humane disposition and to harden it like steel."
GOD'S PROMISE TO THE SLAVES
If the lowest among us is loved by God then God loves every one. Similarly, if turning to God can help the most hopeless, then God is a source for hope for every one. God’s desire for us to be humble, forgiving and peace makers was emphasized in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mound.” This sermon appears to be the most detailed description of the revolutionary message of Jesus Christ. Although the sermon was given 2000 years ago, there appears to be similarities between the undesirables that Jesus ministered to and the American slave. The slave experience can be used to teach the lessons of Sermon on the Mound. This could be helpful during times when his sermon appears unacceptable to many and out dated.
Matthew 5, The Beatitudes
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came and he began to teach them saying:
3*["How Blest Are The Poor In Spirit: The Reign Of God Is Theirs.]
What do you do when life is too hard to bare? Through the ages men have sought “the power of God" when the situation appeared to be hopeless. Slaves were the epitome of helplessness and hopelessness. They had no control of any aspects of their lives. The only power they new of was the power of God.
“I was a religious child, in those days, and I’m religious now, too, but colored folks just naturally had more religion back there, before the Civil War.”
Rachel Reed, Bull Whip Days the Slaves Remember
Slavery was particularly cruel in the Delta cotton fields where it was big business. (Before the Mayflower p51.) These young men were being taken to the Delta to be sold. When there was no hope, death could quickly follow as pointed out in this narrative:
“As they walked together, they talked about their future, and they all agreed that death would be preferable to the living death of the cotton fields. And they decided that the first time they had to ferry across a river with the nigger trader, they would walk onto the Ferryboat and keep right on walking till they had walked off the other end. At the end of Dr. Sneed's farm was a ferry to carry people over to the Macabee farm on the other side, and when the nigger trader drove those slaves onto the ferry, that is exactly what they did: they all walked 'off into the deep of the river at the other end. If there was any among them who was lukewarm he was shoved in by the ones behind him.”
Rachel Cruze Strawberry Plains, Knox County, Tennessee, Bull Whip Days, pg213
4.*[Blest Too Are The Sorrowing; They Shall Be Consoled.]
For the slave, being bought and sold was very painful. All they had was the love that was between them and that could be taken at any minute. The most painful experience of black American History was the buying and selling of slaves.
I had a brother, Jim, who wuz sold ter dress young Missus fer her weddin'. De tree am still standin' whar I set under an' watched em sell Jim. I sat dar an' I cry an' cry, specially when dey puts de chains on him an' carries him off. An' I ain't neber felt so lonesome in my whole life. I ain't never hyar from Jim since, an' I wonder now, sometimes, iffen he's still livin'.
Ben Johnson, Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, J. Mellon, p292
5* [Blest Are The Lowly; They Shall Inherit The Land.]
Slaves were not the only people held with low regard. Poor Whites were often treated poorly. My wife Nancy White had an aunt named Laura Clark from Washington County Kentucky. She lived to be 100 years old and I met her for the first time a month before her 100th birthday. I enjoy listening to people like her and I was particularly interested in finding out what life was like for her in the old days. She said that it was one incident that puzzled her through out her life. Back in the old days black people lived separately from the white people in rural Kentucky but people were not separated economically. The well off and poor Whites lived together. Once there was a young poor white family with a very sick baby. She said “you know those poor white folks walked right pass all those other white people all the way out to my house to ask for help. I don’t understand why they did that after all these years. She said she did the best she could to help them. The Rachel Cruze narrative adds a little light to Aunt Laura’s experience.
Nancy White and her Aunt Laura, Authors Collection
Slaves were not the only people held with low regard. Poor Whites were often treated poorly. Rachel Cruze was the daughter of a slave and a slave owner. Miss Nancy was her grand mother and she owned many slaves. Miss Nancy loved Rachel like a grand daughter but she was half black and would not inherit any of Miss Nancy’s property. Rachel’s observations appear to support those of my wife’s aunt.
“Do you know, the pore white folks of the South mostly had a harder time than the colored folks, under slavery, because the other white folks did not want them around. Many pore white folks would have starved if it had not been for slaves who stole food from their masters to feed the white folks...“ Fanny Oldsby was one of the pore whites who lived near Mis' Nancy, and Mis' Nancy would sometimes give her sewing to do, but she had to take it home to do it. Mis' Nancy wouldn't have her around the place. I used to get pretty lonesome sometimes because there wasn't a child of my age to play with. Fanny Oldsby had a little girl who came with her sometimes, but do you think Mis' Nancy would let me play with her? No, ma'am. I'd no more than sit down close to the little girl than I'd hear, "Rachel, you come here this minute." And, when I would go to her, Mis' Nancy would say, "Don't you sit near her. Why, she'll bite you and she'll get your head full of lice." The pore child would look at me and I'd look at her, but I didn't want her to bite me, so I didn't get close to her.”
Rachel Cruze, Bull Whip Days, p209
“The white folks rode to church and the darkies walked, as many of the poor white folks did. We looked upon the poor white folks as our equals. They mixed with us and helped us to envy our masters. They looked upon our master as we did.”
The Reverend Squire Dowd, Bull Whip Days, p136
6* [Blest Are They Who Hunger And Thirst For Holiness; 'B They Shall Have Their Fill.]
Most slave masters where intimidated by slave prayer meetings and did not allow group praying. The slaves were known to place guards at the door and call the Lord up as if they were calling a parent on the phone.
“ Some, like niggers, just got to pray, half their life is in prayin Some nigger take turn with 'nuther nigger to watch to see if Marse Tom any wheres 'bout, and that they circle themselves 'bout on the floor in the cabins and pray. They they get to moanin' low and gentle, "Someday. someday, someday this yoke going to he lifted off'n our shoulders, someday, someday, someday."“
William Moore, Bull Whip Days, p330
7*[Blest Are They Who Show Mercy; Mercy Shall Be Theirs.]
Slavery days were difficult for the tender hearted. This narrative reveals the pain of the slave and the tender hearted as well. Master Newman could feel the pain of the whipped slave but he felt powerless since it was not his position .to take action. As a result he joined the ranks of the broken hearted. In this next narrative a tenderhearted women struggled with the same dilemma except she decides to take action.
"Maser Newman was a slow easy-goin' sort of a man who took everything as it comes, takin' bad and good luck jest alak. He say not ter worry 'bout bad luck, 'cause worryin' won't do no good, and it would do you a lot of harm. He hardly ever did get mad, but when he did, you bettah leave him alone.
Maser Newman was tender-hearted, too. I know because 'bout de maddest I ever seen him was one evenin' when he comes in from one of de neighbor slave owners, and he sho' was mad; he was jest shakin'. Missus Jane-dat was his wife-went out ter his horse when he rode up, 'cause she could tell dat sumpin' was wrong, and she said, "Nath, what in de world is wrong?" And he begin tellin' her 'bout seem' dis feller whip one of his slaves unmercifully, and de slave beggin' him ter stop, and dis man laughin' and cussin'. Dis man keeps on whippin' him, and Maser Newman got on his horse and come home ter keep from jumpin' on him. I didn't hear all he was sayin'-I was afraid ter let Maser Newman see me listenin' ter what he was saying, while he was mad-but I heard enough ter tell dat it was 'bout dis man beatin' one his slaves nearly ter death."
Mollie Dawson, Bullwhip Days, p421
"Marse Tom been dead long time now. I 'lieve he's in hell. Seem like that where he 'long. He was a terrible mean man and had a indiff'ent, mean wife. But he had the fines', sweetes' chillun the Lawd ever let live and breathe on this earth. They's so kind and sorrowin' over us slaves."
"Some them chillun used to read us li'l things out of papers and books. We'd look at them papers and books like they somethin' mighty curious, but we better not let Marse Tom or his wife know it!
William Moore, Bull Whip Days
“ I wuz skeered of Marse Jordan, an' all of de grown niggahs was too, 'cept Leonard an' Burrus Allen. Dem niggahs wuzn' skeered of nothin'. lf de Debil hese'f had come an' shook er stick at 'em, dey'd hit him back. Leonard wuz er big black buck niggah-he was de bigges' niggah I ever seed-an' Burrus wuz near 'bout as big, an' dey 'spized Marse Jordan like pizen.”
“I wuz sort of skeered of Mis' Sally, too. When Marse Jordan wusn' roun' she was sweet an' kind, but when he wuz roun' , she wuz er "yes, suh, yes, suh," woman. Everythin' he tole her to do she done. He made her slap Mammy one time, 'kaze when she passes his coffee she spilled some in de saucer. Mis'Sally hit Mammy easy, but Marse jorad say, "Hit her, Sally. Hit de black bitch like she 'zerve to be hit. " Den Mis' Sally draw back her hand an' hit Mammy in de face, pow. Den she went back to her place at the table an' play like she eatin' her breakfas'. Den, when Marse Jordan leave, she come in de kitchen an' put her arms roun' Mammy an' cry, an' Mammy pat her on de back an' she cry, too. I loved Mis' Sally when Marse Jordan wuzn' roun'.”
“ Marse Jordan's two sons went to de War. Dey went ali dressed up in dey fightin' clothes. Young Marse Jordan wuz jus' like Mis' Sally, but Marse Gregory wuz like Marse Jordan, even to de bully way he walk. Young Marse Jordan never come back from de War, but 'twould take more den er bullet to kill Marse Gregory. He too mean to die anyhow, 'kaze de Debil didn' want him an' de Lawd wouldn' have him. One day Marse Gregory come home on er furlow. He think he look pretty wid his sword clankin' an' his boots shinin'. He wuz er colonel, lootenent, er somethin'. He wuz struttin' roun' de yard showin off, when Leonard Allen say under his breath, "Look at dat goddamn sojer. He fightin' to keep us niggahs from bein' free. " 'Bout dat time Marse Jordan come up. He look at Leonard an' say, "Wat yo' mumblin' 'bout? Dat big Leonard wuzn' skeered. He say, "I say, 'Look at dat goddamn sojer. He fightin' to keep us niggahs from bein' free!' " Marse Jordan face begun to swell. It turned so red de blood near 'bout bust out. He turned to Pappy an' tole him to go an' bring him his shotgun. When Pappy come back Mis' Sally come wid him. De tears wuz streamin' down her face. She run up to Marse Jordan an' caught his arm. Ole Marse flung her off an' took de gun from Pappy. He leveled it on Leonard an' tole him to pull his shirt open. Leonard opened his shirt and stood dere big as er black giant, sneerin' at Ole Marse. Den Mis' Sally run up again an' stood 'tween dat gun an Leonard. Ole Marse yell to Pappy an' tole him to take dat woman out of de way, but nobody ain't moved to touch Mis' Sally an' she didn't move neither; she jus' stood dere facin' Ole Marse. Den Ole Marse let down de gun. He teached over an' slapped Mis' Sally down, den picked up de gun an' shot er hole in Leonard ches' big as yo' fis'. Den he took up Mis' Sally an' toted her in de house. But I wuz so skeered dat I run an' hid in de stable loft, an' even wid my eyes shut I could see Leonard layin' on de groun' wid dat bloody hole in his ches' an' dat sneer on his black mouf.”
“When de War ended Mis' Sally come to Mammy an' say, "Fanny, I's sho' glad yo's free. Yo' can go now an' yo' won' ever have to be er slave no more. But Mammy, she ain't had no notion of leavin' Mis' Sally. She put her arms roun' her an' call her "Baby, " an' tell her she goin' to stay wid her long as she live. An' she did stay wid her. Me an' Mammy bofe stayed wid Mis' Sally 'twell she died.”
Fanny Cannady, Bull Whip Days, p78
8* [Blest Are The Single-Hearted For They Shall See God.]
Sometimes it appears that God will not answer our prayers and the situation is hopeless. It is difficult to love a God that appears to not love us. The slave’s faith was tested in the trader yard. One slave possessed the faith in God to shed her blood for him and her prayers were answered. She accomplished in a trader yard what Christ's apostles had difficulty doing.
“ We ain't been in New Orleans very long till Mr. Abram took sick and die, and we is taken to the trader yard to be sold. I reckon I musta been 'bout six or mebbe seven year old, at the time.
Major Long was the one who owned the trader yard where we was put, and I guess We was kept there 'bout a week, 'fore my sister Mary was sold away from us.
One morning, our family is all kinda huddled up together in a cornet of the yard away from the rest, and 'long comes Major Long carrying his bullwhip in his hand, with another man. He makes Mary stand up and says to the man with him, "Here's jes' the girl you want for a nurse girl.
Mama begs Major Long not to separate us folks, and hugged Mary and Jane and me to her. The major and the man with him talks a while, and then the major come over to where we are and pulled Mary away from Mama and he and the man took her off. "twan't till after Freedom that we ever saw her again.
Man, man, folks what didn't go through slavery ain't got no idea what it was. I reckon there musta been a hundred colored folks in that trader yard, and the dirt and smell was terrible, terrible. I was jes' a little chap, like I've told you, but I can remember that place like it happened yesterday-- husbands sold away from wives, and children taken awav from mothers. A trader, them days, didn't think no more of selling a baby or little child away from its mother than takinp a little calf away from a cow.
I rec'lec', the night after Mary is sold away from us, the colored folks in the trader yard hold prayer meeting. Mama was very religious-very religious--and it ever a soul went to Heaven, hers did. Seems like Major Long was gone that evening, and Mama and some more of the folks in the yard got together for a praying time. Didn't do no singing, 'cause that would have 'tracted attention, and the major didn't 'low no meetings. But someone saw the folks prayin and told him the next morning, and he come out in the yard with a cat-o'-nine-tails and rounds everybody up. Then, he said, "You niggers what was praying last night, step out here. "
None come out, though, 'cept Mama, 'cause they was 'fraid they was going to get whipped Major said to Mama, "Well, you are the only truthful one in the yard, and I won't whip you, 'cause you have been truthful. I'll see if I can keep you and your man and your other children together and not see you separate." Mama jes' fell on her knees and thanked the good Lord right in front of the major, and he never touched her with his whip.
Twan't but a little while till he comes back and says for us to get our bundles and come with him. We didn't know where we was going, but any place was better'n that trader yard. Jes' to get away from that place was a blessing from the good Lord.
The Major kept his word to Mama and sell us to Mr. Dan Sullivan, and he takes us up, to Alexandria in a wagon.”
-Stephen Williams, Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, J. Mellon, p290
9* [Blest Too The Peace Makers ; They Shall Be Called Sons Of God.]
Jesus said" never avenge yourselves" Romans13,19,"Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be "heaping coals of fire on his head." In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don't let evil get the upper hand but conquer by doing good. (Romans 13,19-21)
The Law of the land was "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Men have retaliated after being attacked for thousands of years. Retaliation is justified by those unwilling to become a “door mat” by the hard hearted. No one wants to become a. If the Negro's were capable of fighting then all could be expected was savagery since the race had been literally raped for two hundred years. Southerners thought they would want revenge as Nat Turner did on his revenge ride. Nat killed any one in his path that was white.
In order to be a peacemaker, one must be strong and have some level of power. Peace making is an option and one must have some level of control over the situation. Slaves could be peaceful but lacked the influence or power to make peace. First people respect strength, and then they respect what is right.
Slaves had few options however, the Civil War musket gave black men power, but would they use it to seek revenge? This was Southerners biggest fear. Southerners had sexually abused black women for two hundred years. Southerners expected black soldiers to come after their women.
Black’s saw southerners as individuals rather than a single race. There were slave masters that loved their slaves and treated them with respect and kindness. In return their slaves treated them with respect when they were not forced.
“ Uncle Henry, the young fellow who figured in the whipping by Old Major, came back to the farm once at the head of a dozen soldiers. He had become a recruiting officer--now, I think they call it "drafting. " Old Major was sitting in his favorite chair on the porch when he saw Henry coming with those soldiers, and he almost fell, he was that scairt. You see, so many times the slaves had returned to kill their masters, and poor Old Major thought Henry remembered that whipping.”
“ But Henry drew the men up in front of Old Major and he said, "This is my master, Major Holden. Honor him, men." And the men took off their caps and cheered Old Major. And he nearly fell again such a great big burden was off his shoulders, then. When Henry commanded his men to stack arms, they all stacked their guns together in front of Old Major, except one soldier who was the lookout. The others then went into the house to see Mis' Nancy; and Mis' Nancy sent out to have some chickens killed, and in no time at all those men were all seated around the dining room table having a regular feast--that is, all but the one who had to watch the guns, and he was fed later.”
J. Mellon, Bullwhip Days, The Slaves Remember, p210-211
Between December 10-29, 1864 black troops fought at Saltville Virginia. They were black Cavalry soldiers from Kentucky. Kentucky was a border state that was not under the influence of the Emancipation Proclamation. Black men were allowed to join the Union Army but their families remained in slavery. The following is exceptional historical material because it describes the action of a black cavalry unit at the Battle of Saltville and also describes the experience of a soldiers widow after he was killed at Saltville. These men not only had justification for retaliation against their enemies but also had the opportunity. They chose instead to show their enemies kindness. Many people feel that kindness displayed towards an enemy without retaliation was a sign of weakness. No one will ever characterize these men as weak.
10* [Blest Are Those Persecuted For Holiness' Sake; The Reign Of God Is Theirs].
American slaves frequently called on Jesus in times of trouble and apparently continued the practice long after slavery. Recall that the Lord took the place of ancestors in heaven and was called upon in times of need.
“Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10
Apparently slave masters and overseers were not comfortable with slaves calling on the Lord while they were whipping them so the slave was forbid in this case from “calling on the Lord.”
Dey wouldn't allow 'em to call on de Lord when dey were whippin' 'em, but dey let 'em say, "Oh, pray! Oh, pray, Marster!" Dey would say, "Are you goin' to work? Are you goin' visitin' widout a pass? Are you goin' to run away?" Dese is de things dey would ax him , when dey wuz whippin' him.
Alex Woods, Raleigh, North Carolina, Bull Whip Days, p244
Although they could not always call the Lord's name, the Lord understood and was not easily fooled. Note that in the following narrative, William Moore was from Texas and Alex Woods was from North Carolina. The large separation between them suggest that saying “pray” instead of “Lord” was not an isolated practice during whippings.
“ One day, I am down in the hog pen riling the hogs and teasing them like any yearling boy will do, when I hear a loud agony screaming up to the house. I can't make out who 'tis. I'm curious and I start up to the house and I hear, "Pray Marse Tom. Pray, Marse Tom. " But still I can't tell who 'tis. When I get up close I see Marse Tom got my mammy tied to a tree with hir clothes pulled down and he is laying it on her with a bullwhip and de blood is running down her eyes. I goes crazy. I say, "Stop, Marse Tom," and he swings the whip and it don't reach me good, but it cuts just the same. I sees Miss Mary standing in the cook house door. I run aryund crazy like, and I see a big rock and I take it and I throw it and it ketches Marse Tom in the skull and he goes down like a poled ox.”
William Moore, Selma Alabama/Limestone County Texas, Bull Whip Days pg 332
William Moore, Library of Congress, 163132r
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