Cotton Carolina: 1844

Sam Brand, guest writer

Growing up as a slave is unfair, because of all the bad memories kept. Slavery is one of the most brutal things humanity has done: picking cotton, planting and harvesting tobacco and all other types of field work in ninety-degree heat is not easy or fun. Consistently working from sunrise to sunset and watching everyone I love being abused, killed, or taken away is something no one should have to go through.
I remember when I was around eighteen or nineteen years old, my sister and I were taken off our current plantation in the back of a wagon, unaware of where we were going. When I asked the master where he was taking us, he answered, “I don’t want y’all anymore I’m
Before he could finish, my eyes widened, and a huge smile came across my face. I began to chant “I’m free!” “I’m free!”
“No you’re not! You are going to a different plantation to be a slave.”
My smile changed to a frown, and my soul suddenly felt empty. This would be my first time being away from my parents. I was afraid. I did not know what would happen to us. It was time I became a man; fear was no longer an option. My sister relied on me to stay strong and calm.
* * *
After a long three-day journey, we finally arrived at our destination, Charleston, South Carolina. It was like nothing I had ever seen before; there were people everywhere! As we rode through town, I saw several more wagons carrying slaves. All the wagons came to the center of town where a large group of men stood in front of a big rectangular platform. Confused, I asked the master, “What’s going on?”, he said, “All those black folks up on stage are going to be sold to new masters.”
When it was our turn, we were shoved onto the platform. When they took a bunch of slaves to trade, they put chains on them (Work Projects Administration). A long line of men walked in front of us to inspect us; it was totally uncomfortable. The men opened my mouth and looked at my teeth, felt my muscles, and even hit me to see if I could do the work they intended for me. Every chance I got, I would glance over to see what was happening to my sister on the other platform. They were inspecting her in depth as well.
The crowd suddenly got silent; the bidding had begun. Nervousness was rushed through my body; whoever bought me would change our lives forever. The auctioneer began yelling different prices. One by one the slaves were sold. My heart pounded harder, and harder, I looked up and saw that it was finally my turn.
“Alright, we got a big, strong, healthy looking slave who looks about 6’2,” yelled the auctioneer, “Can I get 25?”
“25!” Yelled a man in the back.
“Alright we got 25, can I get 50? This guy will do some good work for you.”
“50!” yelled another.
The price continued to rise 75, 80, 90, 95; I was finally sold for one hundred dollars to a man who had bought two other slaves. The two other slaves and I were led off the stage with chains constricting our hands and feet. I could hear my sister screaming and crying, right after I was taken away. I cried the entire trip to my new plantation; my heart was broken.

* * *
Fifteen years passed since I was separated from my family due to the injustices of slavery. I was happily married to Ruth Garrett, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Together we had a ten-year-old son named Thomas. One hot day, in the middle of May, after I finished all my work I was putting my tools back in the shed. I saw master Williams, but he didn’t see me, he was having a conversation with someone.
“I’ve owned Solomon for a long time now.”
“Yeah I know it’s been like fifteen years,” Laughed the stranger.
“I think it’s time for him to go. He is old, slow, and not as strong as he used to be. I just don’t see a good use for him anymore.”
“You’ve never been more right Williams; we can sell him over at the slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina.”
“Yeah, I’ll go get him in the morning.” Replied Master Williams casually.
I ran home as quickly as possible to tell my family what I heard.
“Ruth! Ruth. You won’t believe what happened. We have to get out of here; I’m not losing you and Thomas too!”
“Solomon calm down, tell me what happened? And why do we need to leave?”
“Ok Ok, I was coming in from the field going to put my tools away in the shed. Master Williams was in the shed too but didn’t see or hear me. He said I was old, slow, and basically useless. In the morning, he’s coming to get me and take me to Charleston to be sold to someone else.”
“Solomon, I love you and hope I will get to see you again before I die. I would love to spend the rest of my life with you an—”
“Ruth, why are you talking like this? I want to spend the rest of my life with you too, that’s why we are escaping.”
“Escaping? That’s dangerous Solomon we could get caught! Or worse, be killed.”
“We have to there’s no other choice. I’m not going to be separated from you and Thomas the same way I was separated from my parents and my sister!”
“But Solomon—”
“Look, I’ve been hearing some of the older slaves talk about something called the Underground Railroad.” I would later discover that it was more like an upper ground railroad (Douglass, Frederick). “They say if we head up the ridge West into the woods there will be a cabin there and they will give us further instructions.”
“Ok, I guess you’re right. This is our only chance to stay together I’ll go tell Thomas.”
* * *
We waited till it was completely dark out and everyone was asleep, then we began our escape, I led the family out the house and off the plantation. We went West like I was told, at this point we were on our own. After a few hours of traveling west, I began to see what resembled a cabin. Just as we walked up to the cabin, the sun began to rise.
“Are you going to knock on the door or just look at it dad?” My son asked Innocently
“yes, I’ll knock,” I answered with a smile
Knock Knock
The door swung open. We all watched and waited to see who would come out. “Gasp!” I jumped back. The man in the doorway was the same white man who Master Williams was talking to about selling me. My heart sank. I shook with fear.
“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you; my name is John Smith. Welcome to the Underground Railroad.”
“Uhh wh— what are you doing here aren’t you tr— trying to sell me?” My hands became moist, and my eyebrows were raised.
“Why don’t y’all come on inside, and I’ll explain myself?”
The invitation John had extended had me a little worried, but there was no turning back; staying connected with my family and being free was worth the risk. I went in, and my family followed.
“I know you all are a little confused so I’m going to explain. About a year ago I was a slave owner,” explained John, “That’s how I know Tim Williams or Master Williams.”
“What happened to all your slaves?” My wife asked.
“Well, Ruth I set them all free. When I met my wife, she taught me about Jesus and told me that slavery is wrong. She told me that she would not marry me if I didn’t sell all my slaves. Ever since then we’ve made it our goal to free and teach as many slaves about God as possible using the underground railroad.”
We stayed hidden there for a week. They taught us a lot about Jesus. We learned how to pray along with John 3:16 and Philippians 4:13. The Smiths drove us in their wagon to the next stop and then went back home. The same cycle was repeated several times. We would go to a new home, and then a few days later go somewhere else. Becoming free was getting closer every time we went somewhere else.
Work Cited
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Kindle Edition.
Work Projects Administration. Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Texas Narratives, Part 1. (Location 196). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Douglass, Frederick. Collected Articles of Frederick Douglass. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
Harris, Middleton A. The Black Book, 35th Anniversary Edition, 2009. Random House Publishing Group, NY.
Work Projects Administration. Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina Narratives, Part 2. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.