The Life of Catharina Neger

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The Life of Catharina Neger By: Kiara Kamlani, Nick Gianuzzi, Christian Kohrs, Kevin Coleman, Heath Weed, Alexander Di Martino

My name is Cathy.

I have a Mom named Susy and a dad named Caesar. They love me very much. I wish I could tell you my last name but I can’t. I was born into an enslaved family in which last names are unimportant to others.

I was born in a small town in North Carolina in 1758. I lived a stressful life as there is always a chance I can be bought and sold away from my family. I wake up every day and hope my parents will still be with me. I love my family too much for them to be taken away.

When I was eight years old, my mom and I were sold to the Brethren in Bethabara. I remember being pulled away from my father’s arms. That was the last time I ever saw my dad. The man said my mother and I sold for $90. Today, that’s equal to $3,000.

I lived in Bethabara for four years until my enslavers sent me to work for a cruel man, Mr. Meyers. I served in Mr. Meyer’s tavern for the rest of my life. That day they separated me from my mother. I hoped that I would see my mother again.

The tavern was a church business run by Mr. Meyers. The tavern was a place for lodging and dining for travelers who came to Salem for business. It was built on the edge of town to keep the Moravian brothers and sisters from interacting with the tavern. Even George Washington came to visit once!

I did a variety of jobs in the tavern such as cleaning rooms, emptying bedpans, and cleaning linen. While the men worked outside on the farm pastures and looked after the cattle, I worked in the kitchen preparing food, baking bread, and washing dishes. Because the tavern produced much of its own food, I was often forced to work out in the garden harvesting the food for the guests.

While in the tavern, I met a nice enslaved boy named Jacob. Although I was only 16 years old at the time, Mr. Meyers thought it would be a good idea for Jacob and me to get married. I liked Jacob but I didn’t want to marry him. Mr. Meyers said it would make us happy and we wouldn’t think about running away.

Jacob was very nice and we became close friends. Before we could marry, Mr. Meyers sold Jacob. Just like that, a friend disappeared at the hands of slavery.

Despite the sadness, days passed. I looked forward to the times when I could see my enslaved friends. One of those was my dear Anna Marie. She was the only person who understood my pain as we both could relate to our dark lives unlike anyone else.

Anna Marie made me feel like I had a true life. When I would see her, I felt like I could actually be myself rather than living a life through someone else’s desires. However, like most aspects of my life, I wasn’t able to make the choice of being with her whenever I wanted to because of my status of as an enslaved girl.

Despite this, everyday I woke up and went to work. I missed my friends. I missed my father. It was everything but a free world to me.

I am in a hopeless state of mind. I’ve been separated from my family and the ones I love. Tomorrow could always behold new treachery to me. Living in a constant cycle of uncertainty enslaved labor is taking its toll on me. How is that fair? I realized, it just isn’t.

When I was 17, I became very ill. The doctor told me I had tuberculosis. He told me that I would not be around for much longer. I was too sick to work, so Mrs. Meyers introduced me to “salvation”. She said this would redeem my sins before I pass away.

Just like that, I was gone. I was buried in God’s acre on September 22, 1777. I was 18 years old. I lived through much hatred and cruelty. My loved ones disappeared and I was unable to choose what I did with my life. My life was forcefully handed to the somber and horrid lifestyle of slavery.

I just wish I could have been free…

“The Life of Catharina Neger” was based on a true story of Catharina herself. Many of the events discussed in the story were personalized to her while others were general to slaves as a whole as many pieces of her life are unknown. This story is meant to educate without undermining the horrors of slavery. The following are real life pictures of Catharina’s Grave Stone.