The Intricacies of Slavery | Teen Ink

The Intricacies of Slavery

November 11, 2019
By sades26 BRONZE, Pewaukee, Wisconsin
sades26 BRONZE, Pewaukee, Wisconsin
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“I'm in love with cities I've never been to and people I've never met.” - Melody Truong

The sun is beginning to set, and my body aches as I am losing my strength every day that we are confined in this hell.  Shuffling my worn, mahogany colored boots in the dusty fields of Red Hill Plantation in southern Virginia, I dwell on the fact that getting up at the crack of dawn and obeying my master is all that my life will consist of.  My children don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve this.  

The countless days I have spent planning and envisioning my life with my kids will have been just an aspiration.  I didn’t raise Freddy and Iris to concede to defeat, and I am not about to sit back and watch as we become powerless like our master hopes we do.  I momentarily glance up from the ground I am tending to and involuntarily meet my master’s gaze. I do my best to avoid seeing his condescending eyes looking each of us up and down. 

I feel sad because my mama is hurting.  She feels like she has to be strong for Iris and me.  Naw. I need to be the strong one. I begin to comfort my sister as tears stream down her face.  A scrawny man is kneeling in the brush with his own master towering over the back of him. With a long whip in one hand and his other gripping the man’s neck, he winds the pole back and strikes down on the man’s bareback.  Before it reaches his skin, I manage to cover Iris’ eyes with my hand, but she knows this daily agony all too well.

“Mama, why are they treating us like animals,” I ask.

“I don’t know Freddy, I really don’t know” her voice cracking as her eyes begin to well up with tears.  

Just when I am beginning to lose my drive, a man gently brushes shoulders with me and mutters, “find the pecan tree.” I wait until Freddy glances over at me and then give him a reassuring look suggesting I’ll be back.  Then I quickly mouth “watch Iris” and when my master isn’t looking, I bolt into the woods to the left of me.  If I have a chance, this is it. So I run. I run for miles and miles until I reach the edge of the trees where the only pecan trees I know of await

There she is.  As I am zigzagging through the trees and stray branches, I catch a glimpse of a woman.  It is only a faint shadow as the sun has cascaded and the moon is the only visible light. She is standing in the obscurity of the tree trunk as if she is waiting for me.  For the first time ever, I feel a sense of promise; could this be my gateway to freedom?  As I approach the unknown figure, a beam of light radiating from the moon illuminates the face of the woman.  She has a serious but kind look in her eyes. Once I finally reach the tree she is masked behind, she holds her hands out to me.  I am breathing rapidly in and out as I take her worn out, cracked hands. Pure relief and adrenaline run through my veins as she tells me her name.  Harriet Tubman. This is the moment I know I am saved, maybe not physically, but mentally. I no longer have any doubt in my mind, but instead I felt determination and hope.

She explains that we would be heading north to Pennsylvania where we would be declared free.  When I hear the word “free,” I immediately think of Freddy and Iris. I have to go back for them.  It’s pitch-black now as I weave back through the trees towards the plantation. Both kids are likely in bed wide awake, praying that I will come back.  I can picture them now huddled like cattle in their collections of straw and decayed, old rags thrown down on the loathsome floors of the cabin. I physically can’t wait to get them out of here and give them the life they are entitled to.  Finally, I reach the edge of the woods and scan my surroundings to see if my master is waiting to catch me in the act. If I am caught, I might as well just kiss my life goodbye. The other slaves will be forced by their masters to hoist me up, whip me, and slash my body with freshly sharpened knives until I lay limp.  I have to do this; I have to help my family be free of this nightmare called slavery.  

The author's comments:

A plantation in Virginia— scattered with dust covered slaves— contained a hard-working mother of two whose only wish was for a better life for her children as they witnessed defeat from the long whip that struck many each day; she soon found the woman she needed for freedom— Harriet Tubman.

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