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Thirty Years a Slave

Louis Hughes

Book Overview: 

Louis Hughes was born a slave near Charlottesville, Virginia to a white father and a black slave woman. Throughout his life he worked mostly as a house servant, but was privy to the intimate details and workings of the entire McGee cotton plantation and empire. In Thirty Years A Slave Hughes provides vivid descriptions and explicit accounts of how the McGee plantation in Mississippi, and the McGee mansion in Tennessee functioned--accounts of the lives of the many slaves that lived, suffered and sometimes died under the cruel and unusual punishments meted out by Boss and his monstrously unstable and vindictive wife. He described the profane manner in which this peculiar institution dehumanized, on a daily basis, not only the black man but even more so the white man. Ultimately, Thirty Years A Slave is an expression of Hughes’s desire to accurately describe the nature of the influence that the institution of slavery had on this country during the two hundred years in which it existed here, and the influence it continues to have on the heart and soul of a post-Civil War, post-14th Amendment United States.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . the wool hats of the men—all contrasted with the dark faces of the wearers in a strange and striking manner.

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SLAVE MOTHERS—CARE OF THE CHILDREN.

The women who had young babies were assigned to what was considered "light work," such as hoeing potatoes, cutting weeds from the fence corners, and any other work of like character. About nine o'clock in the forenoon, at noon, and three o'clock in the afternoon, these women, known on the farms as "the sucklers," could be seen going from work to nurse their babies. Many were the heart-sighs of these sorrowing mothers as they went to minister to their infants. Sometimes the little things would seem starved, for the mothers could only stop their toil three times a day to care for them. When old enough to receive it, the babies had milk, the liquor from boiled cabbage, and bread and milk together. A woman who was too old to do much of. . . Read More