The Art of Slavery

January 22, 2010
By Anonymous

July 23, 1873
I hate my job. I hate myself for doing this job. I mean, it’s just so wrong. Everyone always tries to tell me that the people I’m hurting are nothing but tools for human advancement. Tools for human advancement? In my eyes, a HUMAN cannot be a tool for more human advancement. I think that these folks that work with me, these ignorant fools, fail to realize that these “things” are people too. They have the ability to think, act, and talk with the same capacity as we do! Heck, I’m sure that some of them are more literate than most of the men working on this ship. These people that we are tossing around like yesterday’s garbage can make art, write poems, sing, and find their own individual talents – each and every one of them. Who are we to take that wonderful, God-given gift away from them? Oh, that’s right – we’re nobody.

Right about now you’re probably wondering where this anger-fueled speech came from. It didn’t just pop out of my mouth – no way. It came from the events of yesterday, which started out just like any other day….

It was Tuesday, my whipping duty day. Working the pole from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – not my idea of fun. When I whip someone, it’s usually because they’ve done something wrong. But that first guy that came to my post, he had done nothing. Nothing. My co-workers got bored, so they decided to make a show, a nice whipping show. Not that they would watch. They’re all ninnies at heart – scared of their own occupation. Heck, I’m categorized right in there with them. We all feel that way, it’s just that some of them still enjoy this work. They’re nothing but a plethora of monsters, one and all.

When that first man came up to my pole, he was dripping in sweat. It looked like they shut him up in the Heat Room for a while before they came – the tiny, stuffy box that connects to the bowels of the boat. It’s always at least a hundred degrees in there. Not a pleasant experience, as you might be able to imagine. So this man was probably already on his way to his death bed, and they were asking me to whip into next week. To give him a full 50 lashes.

I could see it in this man’s posture – he was defeated and frail. But then I looked into his deep amber eyes, and I saw that rare glimpse of determination, that small inkling of hope for a better life. He had his hands balled into tight fists, and his skin was cracked and chaffing everywhere. I grabbed his arms roughly (at this point there were still a few loiterers) and tied the rough rope tightly around his emaciated wrists. He didn’t resist – none of them do. They’re too weak for that.

By the time I had him completely tied to the worn post, all of the onlookers had gone. I was alone with this innocent man. I had to start the whipping process. I had no choice. The man now had his eyes clenched shut, and his whole body was trembling. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to further injure this destroyed soul.

I started anyways.

As the first lash came down, the man flinched but did not falter from his position. Then came the second. The third. I could see this man weakening before my very eyes. He no longer held his head high; it angled toward the ground like a dying plant reaching for the sun. His hands were not in defiant fists anymore; they were merely flexing and unflexing with each passing blow. The worst difference was his eyes. They used to be clenched shut in a show of power; now they were open, and they were pouring their salty water toward the same earth that his head now reached for.

After five more lashes, the man started to hum – that’s right, hum. He sang a melody that tore at my soul like nothing ever had before. The words symbolized love, and freedom. The tune wove in and out of key, as with each blow it faltered and then started strong again, only to be taken down by the next hit. It was almost as if I could hear his heart screaming for the message to be sent to me, to tell me to please have mercy on this innocent man’s soul, which was slowly leaking out of his body with the waves of the song.

If only I could listen to its pleading. If only I could placate my own ragged soul.

My arm was tired now. Not physically, but emotionally. It was tired of doling out lashes of judgment that left a scar on the soul, each more prominent than the last. It was tired of handing over death on a tarnished platter to those that didn’t deserve it. It was tired of taking away gifts that God himself gave to these people, these courageous men and women who, against all odds, managed to continue breathing through all that they had experienced.

My arm told my head all of this in strangled gasps. It couldn’t take anymore, it said.

So I stopped. I quit lashing that man and untied him. I could see the confusion in his eyes, the question of why? But he accepted the fact that I was finished. He ran away, he ran from that pole as fast as his tired legs could carry him – which wasn’t fast. I didn’t know where he expected to go. This was a ship, after all. I almost called out to him, almost told him that he should stop unless he wanted to go through that again. But I couldn’t find my voice. It was hiding, too much of a coward to protect someone who wholly deserved some protection.

And that made me angry.

I picked up that weathered whip, wrapped it around my hand, and let loose. That man got 45 whips. I would pick up his slack.
Hits to my soul.

The author's comments:
The premise of this is that the narrator is a slave-driver who HATES his job. I really hope that it teaches everyone a little more about what this people went through - and how they managed to survive.

Similar Articles


This article has 2 comments.

EnzoFan BRONZE said...
on Feb. 5 2010 at 8:04 pm
EnzoFan BRONZE, Westerville, Ohio
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Whether it be through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves."

-Enzo, The art of Racing in the Rain

thank you so much your feedback means a lot!

on Feb. 1 2010 at 5:14 pm
I love it! Your story really touches my heart. Makes me feel sorry for all the people who ever got whipped before.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!