Gehrke, William Herman. "NEGRO SLAVERY AMONG THE GERMANS IN NORTH CAROLINA." The North Carolina Historical Review 14, no. 4 (1937): 307-24. Accessed April 27, 2020.
Johanna Brown, interviewed by Vincent Notzon, Winston Salem, NC, April 6, 2020.
“Law Of Slavery in The State of Louisiana.” Accessible Archives Inc., 17 June 2012, www.accessible-archives.com/2011/08/law-of-slavery-in-the-state-of-louisiana/#I_THE_CIVIL_CODE_OF_LOUISIANA
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Writings.” Essay. In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Writings, 10. New York: Fall River Press, 2010.
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Writings.” Essay. In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Writings, 40. New York: Fall River Press, 2010.
Root, Erik S. “The Virginia Slavery Debate of 1831–1832.” Virginia Slavery Debate of 1831–1832, The, 2018, www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Virginia_Slavery_Debate_of_1831-1832_The#start_entry.
Clark, Ernest James. “ASPECTS OF THE NORTH CAROLINA SLAVE CODE, 1715-1860.”
Sensbach, Jon F. “Introduction.” Essay. In A Separate Canaan: the Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840, xvii-xviii. The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
“Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color: Electronic Edition.” North Carolina. Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color, 1831, docsouth.unc.edu/nc/slavesfree/slavesfree.html.
“Slavery in the American South.” Constitutional Rights Foundation. Accessed May 8, 2020.
“The Antebellum Slave Economy.” African American Studies Center, 2004.
The North Carolina Historical Review, vol. 39, no. 2, 1962, pp. 148–164. JSTOR, Accessed 27 Apr. 2020.
This Whip appeared in Wachovia, North Carolina (now Winston-Salem) during the first half of the 19th century. It was used as a tool for slave punishment in order to keep the slaves productive and alert. Unlike the whips portrayed in movies and history textbooks, this leather whip was shaped more like a paddle. It was about 26 inches long and 2 ½ inches wide (widest point) with a stiff handle to grasp the whip. The paddle portion of the whip has four designated holes per row with fifteen rows in total. There is an extra layer of leather which contains thirteen rows of four holes which was the part that was primarily used to hit the slave. The holes cut into the leather were designed to prevent scars and cuts on the slave’s body; hence, the slave's value would be worth more if he or she didn’t have any markings to show for the beatings. The whip itself only weighed a little less than a pound making it easy for slave owners to exert force when punishing the slaves. The Wachovia Whip is a unique artifact that was only found in the Piedmont Triad region during the 1800s-1850s.
Wachovia was the name of the tract in North Carolina that was founded by a Moravian community from Pennsylvania in 1752 where a church purchased about one hundred thousand acres of land from a man named John Carterat, 2nd Earl Granville, in order to escape persecution. In the years following, construction took place as settlements began to arise. These settlements included Bethabara (the first official settlement) and Bethania which was the second settlement built by the Morivians. The construction of Salem began in 1766, and the town was designated to be the center of economic and religious growth for the Wachovia area. During this time, slavery had a prominent role in societies, especially in the South. Just like a lot of other cities, slaves played a major role in defining the history of Salem and the Wachovian tract.
A Separate Canaan, The Making of an Afro-Morivian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840 by Jon Sensbach has remarkable accounts of how slavery played a role in in the Wachovia region. Sesenbach describes the roles slaves played in Wachovia during the late 18th century and the beginning of the early 19th century. He writes that even though the Moravians believe intensely in inclusiveness, slavery was expanding quickly in the South and they used this opportunity to purchase slaves in order to seek economic prosperity in there North Carolina sanctuary. By the early 19th century, hundreds of Africans worked on the Wachovia territory, and the Moravians began to convert their slaves offering them full membership into the church. What is unusual about this is that the slaves were able to worship at the same church with the white people. Even though the two different races worshipped together, the slaves were not ignorant to the fact that they were still slaves and still faced racial oppression and violence often.
"Negro Slavery Among the Germans in North Carolina" was written in 1937 for The North Carolina Historical Review, and it discussed the life of a slave during the late 1700s to mid 1800s in the Piedmont region. This article is specific to the Germans who owned slaves during this time period, and the majority of people who settled in the Wachovia tract identified as Moravian Germans. In 1790 around 13.4% of landowners in Lincoln County owned slaves, but by 1802 almost all families owned slaves. In a matter of twelve years, the percentage of slave owners increased by almost 85%. Slaves in this area were treated better than those who lived in the deep south. Most of the white families would own only a small number of slaves; therefore, slaves would be served from the same kettles, looms, and churches of their master while also being able to live on the same plantation. Neighboring plantations would often get warned for being too friendly with another master’s slave. According to the article, the attire of a slave possessed in 1827 consisted of, “ a surtout coat of brown cloth, a blue-mixed homespun coatee, a pair of striped pantaloons of cotton cassimere, a yellow and dark-striped waistcoat, neatly darned below one of the pocket welts, a straw hat, and a white fur hat” (Gehrke 309). Even though slaves owned by Morivians were treated better than most slaves, they were still considered property and would be punished for misbehavior or poor work ethic. Slaves were often punished by whippings, and sometimes even beatings. Two Germans went as far as to beat their slaves to death, and even tortured a pregnant woman for four months. Even though slaves were treated well, punishments would be brutal and on rare occasions resulted in death.
The southern region of the United States was primarily a slave labor driven economy. It consisted of thousands of plantations and small scale farms, that produced and handled various crops such as cotton, tobacco, sugar, corn, or potatoes. Many slaves were tasked with growing and picking the copious amounts of crops, as well as handling livestock and dealing with the many labor intensive tasks that are associated with maintaining a farm. Moreover, there was a positive correlation between the amount of slaves, one plantation owned and the output of their product. In this way, if the owner had more slaves, they would make more earnings in the long run. Since the agriculture sector was so reliant on slave labor and many plantations had multiple slaves, the slave holders needed to have measures in place that ensured the productivity of slaves.
The foremost measure in place to ensure the productivity of slaves was punishment. When slaves worked at a slower rate, spoke out of turn, mishandled crops, or attempted to escape or rebell they were brutally punished. The most common form of punishment was lashing by whip. In fact, our hidden town project item is a whip, which was used for the purpose of punishing slaves in Moravian Wachovia during the early to mid nineteenth century. If a slave were to run away for example, the slave master would ordinarily subject that specific slave and any slave found to be in collusion with him or her to fifty lashes. This was so common, that it is widely regarded as a staple in the history of slaves throughout the western hemisphere. Images of slaves from the mid nineteenth century can be found with permanent markings all over their bodies. The most famous image (included to the right) is a portrait photograph of an escaped slave from Louisiana, referred to as “Gordon” is a very graphic and extreme example of the horrors of slavery.
Slave punishment and brutalization is not exclusively on display in photographs. You can find detailed accounts of the horrors of slavery in several slave narratives. Arguably the most famous written account of enslaved life is the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, authored by escaped slave and human rights advocate Frederick Douglass. In his narrative, Douglass identifies the discrepancies in the slave system. He tells the story through his own personal lens and recounts incidents in his life that were particularly impactful.
On several occasions, he discusses whipping and its place in slavery. For example, he asserts that “a whipping is the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise” for certain slaves. Here, Douglass explains that whipping can be a response to simple tasks like making it to work on time or not being inside at curfew. Douglass also explains that the severity of slave punishment is relative to the geographical location, the slave tasks, and the nature of the master. When Douglass is sent away from his primary owner, he recounts “I suffered more anxiety than most of my fellow-slaves. I had known what it was to be kindly treated; they had known nothing of the kind.” Here, Douglass is referring to his life as a slave in the city, which was seen to be a privileged position in the slave world. Since he had not encountered the extreme brutality that is present on plantations, he was in essence shocked. He later asserts that:
“They had seen little or nothing of the world. They were in very deed men and women of sorrow, and acquainted with grief. Their backs had been made familiar with the bloody lash, so that they had become callous; mine was yet tender; for while at Baltimore I got few whippings, and few slaves could boast of a kinder master and mistress than myself.”
In this quotation, “they” refers to the slaves on the plantation who either grew up there or had lived there for a long while. Additionally, he is upfront about his position of privilege, and while it was brutal, city slaves did not encounter the same degree of punishment as plantation slaves. By the same token, it was well known that field slaves encountered harsher punishments the further they go geographically south. In the preface, the editor notes that “Frederick Douglass, as a slave… may be regarded as a very fair specimen of the treatment of slaves in Maryland, in which State it is conceded that they are better fed and less cruelly treated than in Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana.” Here, the general consensus, that slavery in the deep south is far more difficult than the northern part of the southern region, is substantiatiated. In the preface, it is also proposed that “many [slaves] have suffered incomparably more, while very few on the plantations have suffered less, than himself.” In this quote, it shows that while Frederick Douglass’ life was a microcosm for the many atrocities that occured in the institution of slavery, it is not an adequate portrayal of slavery for many cases.
North Carolina, specifically in the Piedmont Triad, which is the north central region of North Carolina, had moderate conditions for slaves. It did not have a reputation for its brutal nature, but it was certainly not any less reliant on slave labor. Furthermore, it used force in order to maintain social and economic order. Whipping was very common in the cotton fields and manufacturing plants that were littered across the region. In the mountainous areas of the Piedmont Triad, some slaves even worked on mining operations which required more man power and more force than slavery in the lower lands.
Southern Slave Codes
To understand the context behind the Wachovian whip, one must also consider the laws that allowed for slaves to be punished. The whip was one method through which slaves could be punished, but unfortunately was not the only one. In conjunction with the punishment mechanisms the laws, also known as slave codes, were essential for slave owners and whites to exercise power. In order to keep slaves in bondage and prevent them from revolting, states designed laws that facilitated their punishment. The slave codes were similar across most Southern states, but they could differ depending on how strict the officials were. Since the Wachovian whip belonged to a North Carolinian, this section will mainly analyze the North Carolina Slave Codes while taking into account codes from other Southern states.
Slave laws were enacted after the Revolutionary War, when slave owners saw the need to justify and legitimize their actions. It was not until Nat Turner's rebellion of 1830 that caused whites to tighten the restrictions and take away even more freedoms from their slaves. Turner's rebellion was an event in American history that made whites question the legitimacy of their positions and further strengthen slave laws. During this event, a group of slaves led by Nat Turner revolted against their masters and killed over fifty whites in Southampton County, Virginia. After this violent revolt, there was a debate in the Virginia legislature that considered manumitting slaves. This was because the increasing growth in African-American populations threatened the white populations and could lead to another revolt. There were various points of view presented, including sending free African-Americans to Africa. In the end, Virginians decided that they should pose more restrictions instead. The law of March 1832 radically changed the lives of slaves in Virginia: now slaves were not allowed to possess alcohol, assemble with other slaves (including for religious purposes), keep or carry firearms, write or print books or pamphlets, among other restrictions. This law was an attempt to reinstitute the power in whites that was lost in the rebellion.
Similar to the Wachovian whip, the North Carolina codes exemplify the power that whites had over slaves. Throughout the whole document, slaves are referred to as pieces of property from which whites can profit and treat as they wish. For example, a statute enacted in 1741 states that an iron collar must be placed on a runaway when hired out. Regarding the penalty laws that require punishment, there are over fifteen statutes that explicitly state the allowance of physical punishment in the form of whippings. Some of these forbid slaves teaching others to read, raising livestock, selling alcohol, preaching in public, and marrying a free man or woman. For all these offenses, the slave may be sentenced to receive a maximum of thirty-nine lashes on his or her bare back. Another important aspect of the North Carolina slave codes is the statute that allows for a slave to be emancipated. This statute comprises several details that can lead to emancipation if followed through. The person must file a petition to one of the Superior Courts, give public notice of his intention to file the petition at the courthouse of the county and the State Gazette for at least six weeks before the hearing and enter into bond with two securities of one thousand dollars per slave. The slave must remain in North Carolina for at least ninety days before he or she is emancipated, and then permanently leave the state. Evidently, the steps to become a free African-American are long and arduous.
The North Carolina slave codes also served as a way to keep slaves in control. The first slave code was written in 1712 and was similar to Virginia's slave code. Historian Ernest Clark explains the reasons behind the slave code and how it affected slaves. He writes that the slave code had a few purposes: to control the black population in North Carolina, maintaining a social standard in the community, and to provide a sense of security to the slaves.Although the slave codes took away from many of the civil liberties that whites enjoyed, Clark argues that they unintentionally protected slaves from further mistreatment. For example, from 1790 to 1830 North Carolina enacted statutes that protected slaves from slave offenders. The statutes resembled most of the procedural rights of white men, such as trial by jury, challenge of jurors, counsel and appeal to the Supreme Court. Although there were certain limitations that were emblematic of the time, such as a slave being unable to testify against a white person in court, slave codes helped bring at least some justice to slaves' trials.
Although slave codes were similar across many Southern states, there are still differences that demonstrate the context behind each state's rules. In some cases, the sentences were much harsher than the North Carolinian codes. For example, the Louisiana codes of 1852 stated: "If a slave willfully strikes a white person to cause shedding of blood, the slave shall be punished with death." Offenses of similar magnitude did not explicitly state who decided the punishment, which meant that the slave could be killed as long as the white person could justify it. Regardless of the state, the main purpose of the slave code was to subject the slave to the physical and psychological hold that whites had on them. As mentioned previously, the symbolism of the whip as a method for punishment came with the laws and statutes that allowed for the punishment to occur.
This whip held at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts reveals a vast amount of historical value. It represents a tyrannical structure disguised by religious values that the Moravians claimed. As described previously, the Moravians likely utilized this whip not only to punish their African-American brothers but to establish an order essential to their community. Although they could be considered as tolerant compared to the other Southern communities, they still utilized punishment mechanisms against their brothers. The history of the whip should be taught at schools in the Winston-Salem locality, since it molded the town into what it is today. Students should learn and recognize that the seemingly fictitious whip that is present in modern media had real significance in the town of Winston-Salem.
Object biography by James Bucknam, Tania Del Moral, and Vincent Notzon, Fall 2020
Douglass was an important writer, reformer, and statesman—and perhaps the most famous fugitive slave, who escaped from slavery and then began to tell his story, becoming a national leader in the abolitionist movement and an international hero.
Douglass wrote three different biographies:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1891). As a celebrated author and lecturer Douglass also served
as a living rejection of the myth of black incapacity, or suggestions that slaves lacked the ability to function as American citizens.
“In 1790 around 13.4% of landowners in Lincoln County owned slaves, but by 1802 almost all families owned slaves. In a matter of twelve years, the percentage of slave owners increased by almost 85%.”