Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of a plantation house near Social Circle, Georgia
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The Slave Experience: Living
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Original Documents Living Conditions

C. 1680
Text cited in James G. Basker, ed. Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660-1810. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2002)
Image courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, Documenting the American South
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Document Description
A white felon forced into servitude as punishment for his crime, Revel lived and worked side-by-side with black slaves in Virginia. His poem reveals the similar living conditions experienced by both whites and blacks performing forced labor in the early days of American colonial settlement.

We and the Negroes both alike did fare,
Of work and food we have equal share;
But in a piece of ground we call our own,
The food we eat first by ourselves were sown,

No other time to us they would allow,
But on a Sunday we the same must do:
Six days we slave for our master's good,
The seventh day is to produce our food.

Sometimes when that a hard days work we've done,
Away unto the mill we must be gone;
Till twelve or one o'clock a grinding corn,
And must be up by daylight in the morn.

And if you run in debt with any one,
It must be paid before from thence you come;
For in publick places they'll put up your name;
That every one their just demands may claim,

And if we offer for to run away,
For every hour we must serve a day;
For every day a Week, They're so severe,
For every week a month, for every month a year
But if they murder, rob or steal when there,
Then straightway hang'd, the Laws are so severe;
For by the Rigour of that very law
They're much kept under and to stand in awe.

Part IV
At length, it pleased God I sick did fall
But I no favour could receive at all,
For I was Forced to work while I could stand,
Or hold the hoe within my feeble hands.

Much hardship then in deed I did endure,
No dog was ever nursed so I'm sure,
More pity the poor Negroe slaves bestowed
Than my inhuman brutal master showed.

Oft on my knees the Lord I did implore,
To let me see my native land once more;
For through God's grace my life I would amend
And be a comfort to my dearest friends ... .

Thus twelve long tedious years did pass away,
And but two more by law I had to stay:
When Death did for my cruel Master call,
But that was no relief to use at all.

The Widow would not the Plantation hold,
So we and that were both for to be sold,
A lawyer rich who at James-Town did dwell,
Came down to view it and lik'd it very well.

He bought the Negroes who for life were slaves,
But mp transported Fellons would he have,
So we were put like Sheep into a fold,
There into the best bidder to be sold ...

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