Un vieillard et son esclave (An Elder and His Slave)
From Voyage à Surinam; description des possessions néerlandaises dans la Guyane (1839)
by Pierre Jacques Benoit
(Source: Slavery Images)
African American Slave-Ownership
One such text comes to us from the pen of Venture Smith (1729?-1805), who was forcibly taken from his homeland in Dukandarra, Guinea to the United States when he was eight years old.
As fate would have it, Smith was enslaved himself before he later purchased some slaves of his own.
I purchased a Negro man, for no other reason than to oblige him, and gave for him sixty pounds. But in a short time after he run away from me, and I thereby lost all that I gave for him, except twenty pounds which he paid me previous to his absconding.
I bought nothing which I did not absolutely want...perhaps I would have a garment or two which I did not have on at all times.
Solomon my eldest son, being then in his seventeenth year, and all my hope and dependence for help, I hired him out to one Charles Church, of Rhode-Island, for one year, on consideration of his giving him twelve pounds and an opportunity of acquiring some learning. In the course of the year, Church fitted out a vessel for a whaling voyage, and being in want of hands to man her, he induced my son to go, with the promise of giving him on his return, a pair of silver buckles, besides his wages. As soon as I heard of his going to sea, I immediately set out to go and prevent it if possible.--But on my arrival at Church's, to my great grief, I could only see the vessel my son was in almost out of sight going to sea. My son died of the scurvy in this voyage, and Church has never yet paid me the least of his wages. In my son, besides the loss of his life, I lost equal to seventy-five pounds.
After my wife, I purchased a Negro man for four hundred dollars. But he having an inclination to return to his old master, I therefore let him go. Shortly after I purchased another Negro man for twenty-five pounds, whom I parted with shortly after.
Being about forty-six years old, I bought my oldest child Hannah, of Ray Mumford, for forty-four pounds, and she still resided with him. I had already redeemed from slavery, myself, my wife and three children, besides three Negro men.
...he complained of being hurt, and asked me if this was not a hard way of treating our fellow creatures. I answered him that it would be hard thus to treat our honest fellow creatures. He then told me that if I would let him off my shoulders, he had a pair of silver shoe-buckles, one shirt and a pocket handkerchief, which he would turn out to me. I agreed, and let him return home with me on foot; but the very following night, he slipped from me, stole my horse and has never paid me even his note.
The other Negro man, Jacklin, being a comb-maker by trade, he requested me to set him up, and promised to reward me well with his labor. Accordingly I bought him a set of tools for making combs, and procured him stock. He worked at my house about one year, and then run away from me with all his combs, and owed me for all his board.
Although I was absent at the time, and had no concern whatever in the business, as was known to a number of respectable witnesses, I was nevertheless prosecuted by this conscientious gentleman, (the Indian not being able to pay for it) and obliged to pay upwards of ten pounds lawful money, with all the costs of court.
My adversary was rich, and threatened to carry the matter from court to court till it would cost me more than the first damages would be.
Such a proceeding as this, committed on a defenseless stranger, almost worn out in the hard service of the world, without any foundation in reason or justice, whatever it may be called in a Christian land, would in my native country have been branded as a crime equal to highway robbery. But Captain Hart was a White gentleman, and I a poor African, therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog.
The reader may here see a Franklin and a Washington, in a state of nature, or rather in a state of slavery.
This narrative exhibits a pattern of honesty, prudence and industry, to people of his own color; and perhaps some White people would not find themselves degraded by imitating such an example.
**info added after day of posting.
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and co-Founder of Black Research Central
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Documenting The American South - A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America. Related by Himself. (1798) by Venture Smith
New York City's African Slaveowners: A Social and Material Culture History (1994) by Sherrill D. Wilson
The University of Richmond: The History Engine - Blacks Owning Blacks: The Story of William Ellison
Black Masters: A Side-Light on Slavery (1905) by Calvin Dill Wilson
The Washington Post - Up Through Slavery by Ken Ringle
National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places Program - St. Augustine Catholic Church and Cemetery
Black Research Central
When Negritude Meets Pettitude.