My Life Among the Tortured: A Slave Diary

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September 20th, 1850
I am sitting here shivering. I have been in the same corner for almost two hours. Only now have my hands stopped shaking enough for me to write this. I fear what is coming even more than what has already passed. What you may be asking is the source of all my fear and agony? Well, it is the fugitive slave act that was passed in congress not two days ago. I have only heard about it this eve and have been scared like a jackrabbit ever since. I myself have nothing to fear, I am safe on the plantation, still working. But my own brother William has run away to Boston not two weeks ago.

William does not yet know his whereabouts and will surly be recaptured and punished. William is but 17 and too young to endure the tortures that I have heard about. If William were like any other man on this plantation, maybe I would not be worrying as much. But he is not; he is not rough, and wild like the other boys. He is kind, gentle and caring. His talent is not with fist fighting, it is with woodworking. I have sat for many an hour watching his hands turn a rough piece of wood in to a soft, honey-colored bowl, or pipe. I miss him so much and hope he comes home soon; for momma has cried every night since he left. Please god; return my dear brother to me.

September 25th, 1850
No news from William. I am still deeply troubled, but have been able to go on with every day chores. It is a good thing I have, or else I would have been punished. Now for some good news, the weather has taken a turn for the better. It has become quite cool and pleasant in the evenings, and during the days there is a nice, cool breeze.

September 28th, 1850
No news from William. Woe is me.

October 12th, 1850
I feel as if I could fly away in to the heavens, away from this horrible plantation. William has written! He is fine. He says that he is staying with a kindly old man in Boston, who has disguised him as his nephew. He is working as a printer’s assistant, and makes a dollar a week! I am so happy I could sing.

January 30th, 1852
I have just found this old book hidden under a loose floorboard. I cannot believe that I have forgotten where I hid it. A year ago, when I had first hidden it, I forgot where I put it. I just about tore this little house apart in the search for it. But, I have just remembered, and I am glad. It will be wonderful to record my thoughts again, free of prying eyes.

February 3rd, 1852
Another letter from William today. He has been writing regularly, and his letters are chock full of happy goings ons in his life. He says he has met a girl and has begun to court her. I am so happy for him! Her name is Adeline.

February 10th, 1852
Poppa is in a strange mood today. I think that he is half happy, and half sad. I do not know what has caused this mood.

February 16th, 1852
Now I know what had caused poppa’s mood. It was a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Poppa says that this book is good because it stands up against slavery. He says that this book is bad because it might make slave owners worried. If they were worried, they would tighten the hold. That would be almost unbearable.

February 21st, 1852
Snow today, just a light one, but enough to make everything look crisp and clean. I have ripped my best wool cloak. Momma is not pleased.

January 5th, 1857
Poppa is not happy at all today. He seems mad at everything. I tried to sidle up to him, and ask him what was wrong but he just walked away. Maybe the cold is getting to him. I wonder.

January 10th, 1857
I have found out the reasoning for poppa’s foul mood. It is something called the Dred-Scott decision. He says that with this, we will never have the rights that we were meant to have. I feel scared, what does he mean by this?

April 15th, 1861
Well, it is finally here. Everyone has been talking about it for a long time, and now it has finally come. When the news reached us today that a great war had begun, I immediately thought of this book. Having neglected it for a long time, it took me some time to remember where I had last hidden it. But, all of that effort was worth it to have somewhere to record my purest, unaltered thoughts. I am scared not only for myself, but also for William. He is now married to Adeline and has a beautiful (or so his letters say) baby girl name Prudence. She is also called Pru. Best of all, he opened a woodworking shop. This was always a dream for him, and I would hate to see him have to leave it all.

Also I am scared because I have listened at master’s table and heard terrible things about war. I hope, pray, and wish that none of these ghastly things come true. Now that I am older, I have begun to court. I have a fine man named Ben. His mother is a slave, but his father is our master!

June 10th, 1861
It was horribly hot today and I have been so busy. Master has me running back and forth getting him cool drinks. I can hardly bare it!

August 1st, 1861
Another letter from William today, Ben smuggled it in. he says that little Pru has started to walk. He says that she gets in to every thing, even knocking over a barrel of flour. What a mess!

September 5th, 1861
It has finally started to cool off, and I no longer have to fan my mistress every minute. I am glad, for I am exhausted. Mistress is a clam, gentle, and caring lady. She gave me the day off! Maybe she would like to defy her husband.

December 25th, 1861
A lovely day today. There was much food, dancing, and drink. I did not care too much for the noise, so I snuck out to sit with my favorite goat. It is freezing outside, but goat is so warm.

January 2nd, 1862
Ben and I plan to jump the broom. My cup is overflowing!

January 29th, 1862
I have just found out that I am to have a child with Ben. I am overjoyed, yet a little scared. I am scared because master might get it in his head to sell my child. I hope that this will not happen!

February 2nd, 1862
I have been sick this morning. It is awful. I do not know if I will be able to live through this.

February 15th, 1862
I am feeling much better! Momma came over today with some linens that she had sewn for the baby. She is almost as excited as I.
September 25th, 1862

March 4th, 1862
The weather has started to get warm. I hope that this summer will not be a hot one, for I will be in a bad state. Mistress has dismissed me from work until I have the child. Master will not be happy but, I think he will listen to his wife.

September 25th, 1862
There have been many celebrations going for the past few days. I did not take part in them, but observed almost every detail of the free, unbridled joy. This celebration took place because of a piece of paper. Yes, a piece of paper. This paper is called the Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln has signed this paper saying that all slaves in the confederate states that would not return to the union are free. I myself do not know the exact terms of this great document.

Ben said that this will mean a better life for all of us. I do not know exactly what this is supposed to mean but. The only person that I have seen today that is not happy is Mr. White. In fact, he seems positively sour. I guess he supposes that we might try something with all this joy in the air. I am hopeful that something good will come of this.

October 8th, 1862
My beautiful baby boy was born today. We have decided to name him William, after my brother. I have already written to him, and I cannot wait to hear his response. This is the last page in this book, and it seems fitting.





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