A woman who was about to be sold away from
her two children because she "wouldnt be whipped" killed her children and
herself on the eve of the pending separation. Another woman threatened to commit
suicide because she had been whipped severely; after climbing down into a well, she
refused to let herself be drawn up until the master promised not to whip her again. One
master warned his overseer not to attempt to whip a slave called Henry Halfacre. When he
tried, Henry knocked him unconscious. He was sold but "they sneaked him back again
when the overseer was changed." In one case an overseer was killed in an
unpremeditated group project, according to a Franklin, Tennessee ex-slave who at that time
was old enough to be a regular field hand:
I remember during slavery a bunch of slaves
were piling leaves up and burning them, and the old overseer was standing with his back to
the big fire with a big whip in his hand. Dont you know they knocked him over in
that fire and burned that old white man to death! Nobody never did know what happened to
him; they just burnt him up.
An old man who
realized that resistance of any kind failed to fit into the usual picture of slavery,
added a statement which throws some light on how the runaway slaves managed to exist.
It is a remarkable thing to tell you, some
people cant see it, but I am going to tell
you, you can believe it or not but its the
truth; some colored people at that [time]
wouldnt be whipped by masters. They would run away and hide in the woods, come home
at nights and get something to eat and out he would go again. Them times they called them
"runaway niggers". Some of them stayed away until after the war was over.
These people who
preferred danger, death or severe punishment to conditions on the plantation are mentioned
much too seldom by writers dealing with the slave regime. It would seem that they
comprised a larger element in the slave population than is usually supposed.