Slavery was a period when black people were marginalized, their egos battered, and their minds and bodies were suppressed. Rather than withstand such physical and mental abuse, most will fight with their lives to gain freedom, a battle most won. It is still a wonder how some of them after tasting the waters of freedom still decided to return to the shackles of slavery.
Slave rebellions were rampant in the 1800s with the most prominent being the Haitian revolution which brought them independence in 1804. The slaves were feared by their masters, the plantation owners, and rich merchants. Throughout this period, so many slaves gained their freedom howbeit through the most rigorous means ever.
Several of them were able to keep up with life after slavery and stand on their own to create the life they wanted. Many others were not so privileged and saw the same dark road of slavery the only route of survival they had left. The only way they knew how to survive was to go down that road even though that was a resolve they could never have chosen if they had an option.
In this article, we consider the reasons why these black people chose that dark route of slavery rather than stay free for the rest of their lives.
As black communities grew, it became more evident to white slave owners that they had become a threat, a bomb waiting to explode. The revolution experienced in the early 1800s made it imperative to establish a new law, the Expulsion law. This law dictated that slaves who had gained freedom must within a year have raised enough money to pay for their freedom and that of their family members. They were also required to leave the State where they were enslaved to a new State.
Ordinarily this was impossible to achieve in five years, talk more of one, clearly, most slaves couldn’t keep up. Most of them had piled up loads of debt within a few months it was evident the only route of salvation was returning to their old slave masters. Others were resold at the slave markets at ridiculous prices. All-in-all, the law was meant to spite the black slaves and favor their white owners.
Separation from family members
Slaves gained their freedom through several means, the most prevalent were forced freedom and slave rebellions. In a nutshell, as a black slave one had to fight for freedom. But how easy could it have been seeing that most of them already had families as slaves? Women and children were most disadvantaged for they had no power against this tyranny.
Male slaves had to make bargains to come for their family members at a later date when they could pay for their freedom. During this period they couldn’t see their family members or communicate with them. This broke so many as they would rather stay slaves than be separated from their family members.
After the Expulsion laws had become widely effective in keeping slaves as slaves, another law was established, once again to favor white slave owners. The law was one which focused on black marriages and childbearing. It dictated that every slave who was already married and able to purchase his or her freedom would have to be separated from their spouse else return to being a slave.
Many could not stomach the idea of being separated from their spouses and saw it better to eat the bread of slavery together. One scenario that will forever be remembered is the account recorded in the book Bound in Wedlock. It tells us of Percy Ann Martin who petitioned a court to reduce her to salve status just so she could remain with her husband.
Slave owners saw the freedom of black slaves as a threat, majorly to their farms and businesses as they were losing manpower really fast. To balance out this effect they needed to come up with another separation law, this time it was the possession of slave children. Any child born to a slave became the possession of the master and if the slave bought his or her freedom, the child remained in the master’s custody.
Buying one’s child as a slave was even more expensive than buying one’s partner. This led to most slaves returning to slavery as they couldn’t leave their children behind never to see them again.
With the above points, it is clear that even if most slaves wanted to become free, there was sometimes more slavery in being free. It was a hopeless situation for many as they would rather walk the streets of slavery than drown in the misery of their own freedom.