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The Slave Experience: Responses to Enslavement
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Original Documents Responses to Enslavement

"Desperate Negro Woman" from the STAUNTON VINDICATOR
Courtesy of Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War, Virginia Center for Digital History, University of Virginia, (
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Photo of the text of Desperate Negro Woman from the STAUNTON VINDICATOR
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Document Description
Slaves like the woman described in this brief article were sometimes so dejected about their condition they turned to self-mutilation, and in some cases to suicide. Self-injury could make it impossible for a slave to perform a certain kind of task, or it could render a slave less desirable for sale, decreasing the chance that he or she would be sold away from loved ones. Ultimately, such an act was always a statement of oppositional against the master's power.

Desperate Negro Woman

A fine looking negro woman aged about 28 years, belonging to Mr. Joseph Cline, living about four miles from Staunton, becoming unruly, he determined to bring her to town and sell her. While she was going to get her clothes, she picked up an axe which she had concealed, and deliberately cut three of her fingers off, taking two licks at them. She was brought to town, placed in jail, and her hand was dressed by Dr. Baldwin. She did the act for the double purpose of preventing her sale and taking revenge upon her master.

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