Essay: 12 years a slave

According to Drew Faust, author of Culture, Conflict, and Community, There was a slave owner named James Henry Hammond who did not really have any idea of how to control the slaves. He did not know what to do and how to command them. He had been married into it. He began to listen to his friends who had suggested to ‘Be kind to them make them feel an obligation and by all means keep all other Negros away from the place, and make yours stay at home- and raise their church to the ground-keep them from fanaticism for God’s sake and your own.’ So he did just that. He began to tear down churches just so they could assimilate more into the white Churches and hopefully show up by taking their churches away. They began to become less religious for quite some time but then they began to rise up again. They started to act lazy and defiant because of the lack of authority. ‘The slaves, accustomed to a far less rigorous system of management, resented his attempts and tried to undermine his drive for efficiency.’ Because of the disobedience he began to severely punish them. Constantly beat them senseless if they did not follow orders. That was the norm throughout most slave owners. They would casually beat their slaves for disobeying their master and sometimes even for the hell of it. This is evidently clear in 12 years a Slave.
In 12 Years a Slave, an African American man named Solomon Northup is a free man in the North, living in New York with this wife and two children. He is a savvy violinist and is approached by two individuals asking if he wants to perform for a circus they are opening up in Washington which would pay greatly. He agrees but is drugged and sent back to the South under the name Platt, a runaway slave from Georgia. He gets sold to a plantation but is later sent to another. The reason why will be later stated. In this second plantation, his owner John Epps is known as not being the nicest slave owner. He was actually known for being incredibly cruel for those who disobey his order. He interprets the bible in a way saying that if the slaves were to disobeyed their master they would get 100 slashes if necessary. Epps would have the slaves pick cotton. The average pounds picked by slaves were 200 pounds and whoever didn’t meet the average would get whipped. Northup would usually not meet the quota so he would usually take part of those lashings. Epps would lash out at slaves when he didn’t get what he wanted. His wife would also beat one of the slaves because of jealousy towards her.
Now of course most slave owners are not usually that mean when it comes to the way they treat their slaves. According to Faust before Hammond took the course of action to beat the slaves for their disobedience, he began to kind of give slaves some of what they asked for. After he took away their churches and they failed to join the white churches he began to become more lenient and allowed a traveling minister just for slave services. ‘For a number of years he hired itinerant ministers for Sunday afternoon slave services.’ He would also imply a system of reward for those who did well in their task, instead of not getting any gratitude. Of course he would still punish those that failed in their duties but I suppose it is a start. ‘Hammond seemed not so much to master as to manipulate his slaves, offering a system not just of punishments, but pf positive inducements, ranging from contests to single out the most diligent hands, to occasional rituals of rewards for all, such as Christmas holidays; rations of sugar, tobacco, and coffee; or even pipes sent to all adult slaves from Europe when Hammond departed on the Grand Tour’ So as you can see sometimes some slave owners would be kinder to their slaves than most other slave owners.
In 12 Years a Slave, this is evident as well. Northup, during the slave auction gets sold to a plantation owner named William Ford. Ford tries to convince the seller to give sell him the daughter of a woman he was buying just to keep their family together but the man wouldn’t budge after Ford practically begged for her. Once they all arrive to the farm, Northup works and shows his ingenuity by impressing Ford with a waterway that will help transport logs quickly and cheaper. Ford’s carpenter, John Tibeats, said that couldn’t work and when it did he quickly resented Northup for it. One day he began to harass Northup and they both got into a scuffle in which Northup won but Tibeats threatened him. Ford’s overseer Chapin came and told him to stay on the plantation because if he left he would not be able to protect him. Tibeats came back later with two of his friends and began to lynch Northup. That’s when Chapin came and rescued him from the three men and warned them with a gun pointing at them saying that Ford held a mortgage on Platt and if they hung him, he would lose that money. He then told them to leave Northup and run away. Chapin then left Northup on his tip toes just so the noose won’t wring his neck all day until Ford came and rescued him. That night, Ford keeps Northup in the house protecting him and tells him in order to save his life he has given his debt to Epps. This shows how tender and nice some slave owners were compared to some cruel slave owners like Epps.

Source: Essay UK - http://xbmm43.com/essays/english-literature/essay-12-years-a-slave/


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