The Smith Slave Family Story A Collection of Short Journal Entries by Mihir, Gerald, and Michael
Deena Smith: May, 1626 The day is some time in May, 1626. My husband has tragically died in an unfortunate illness. It is quite depressing, but life will still go on. There are only a few of my companions with me on the boat, 10 of us now. I learned that I was pregnant a few days ago, and with only a few loaves of bread I must sustain myself and my child. I am worried about the childbirth due to this lack of nutrition in our diets. We are closed below the deck, not getting much fresh air or exercise. Health is poor, and 4 others are sick. I am lucky to be healthy for the moment, but I must stay this way for the sake of my life and my child. Paper is running out, and I hope I can live to write another day. But for now, I must try to rest.
Zachary Smith: November 1637 It is the year 1637, and I am now eleven years old. I am working for Master Green in the city of New Amsterdam. He is respectful to me, however has force to make me work. He was kind enough to teach me how to read and write, and take me up as a son. I am lucky to have a kind owner, unlike most of the other slaves. My father died before I was born, and my mother died while giving birth to me. I wish I had memories of them, but a slave ship is a hard place to grow up in. All I remember is the rain, and the wood splintering under the weight of so many bodies. I am lucky to have been born near the end of our journey, otherwise there would not have been hope for me. Master Green lets me right around once a month, so I am writing as much as I can. Master Green keeps all of my journals in the library, where I am welcome, but can never enter because Master is so busy. I have a couple of slave friends in town, and Master gives me a gracious 20 minutes a day to go play with them. My best friend is Bethany. Master is so nice to Bethany. I try to bring her home as much as possible, because the Masterâ€™s wife always makes sweet bread whenever I do. Her sweet bread is very nice. Well, Master is now calling once more, so I must bid you farewell, paper and quill. Goodbye.
Catherina Williams: July 1775 Times are hard, and work is tough during the revolution. Though my owner is kind, I must complete work in order to help the war cause against those evil British dogs. They truly do not care about us as fellow people, and always try to assert their power by taxing us without even letting us have our opinions! It's true that without Britain we wouldn't be here in the States, but it does not make sense for such a small country across the ocean to be ruling us. They must think we're foolish not to revolt, considering our size compared to theirs. However, the war has not gone as well as expected. We have just lost a battle at Long Island my master tells me...our force was 10,000 against the British 20,000. We lost more men, but the war effort is still alive to fight for our freedom. In my free time, I use what little material I have (such as the charcoal mixture I made this picture with) to draw pictures depicting my life, my legacy to my children and my defiance to all who believe that we should be treated like horses. The picture below showed my family being separated from me, when I lost my dear father. He is the one who was ever so strongly pointing his back to whatever came his way. My father was always defiant. The slave owner shown surrounded by bought slaves always favored my father, and I am happy for that, because he did not feel as many blows to his back in his time as a slave. See how that man next to the white man is pleading for something. Iâ€™ve always had the thought that he has been separated from his family, too, and that he was never as strong as my papa. Anyway, I have fallen in love with a man named Thompson, and his father had the same story as mine. I wonder if they had met before. Well anyway, back to serving my masters; I hope I live this wretched war to one day write again.
Jane Van Etten: September, 1821 Its been 45 years now... wait maybe 46. It is hard to tell time in such a dark world, tough on an old woman. However, hope is still alive, as I have read this article about something called the Missouri Compromise; that supposedly freed many slaves including me, by this “balance” that was created. I wonder what it is? All I’ve heard is that there has been trouble with Maine and it being a free state and Missouri as a slave state. I’ve heard something about a 36th parallel which should make me free. My owner isn’t letting me go though, and I hear a little talk of him on the run from the modern day abolitionists. I do hear the name “James Monroe” and “the Missouri Compromise” a lot. I guess I have to thank this James fellow for freeing me, even if my owner is not letting me loose anytime soon. It seems that Missouri is a state that has slaves officially... how poor it must be for them. Yet with all the excitement I hear from my friend and my husband, I still have to be worked like a mad cow. Anyways, back to work I go.
Jacob Westfall: January 1850 21 years. Thats my age, yup yup. I have been working in this awful place for over 6 years now. It’s all been the same every day, waking up in a smelly rotten freaking cot, going out to to pick up stuff to cook, and then sweeping the floor that seems to always find the dirt. You know, I ain't findin’ da dirt, da dirt finds me. Anyways, this morning when I was going to buy some stuff for the kitchen and I came across a newspaper that read “New Land and Abolished Slavery”. At first, I was like “This can’t be legit, mate!” but as I read through, it had said many things that I oh so dearly liked. First, it made California a free state and then it forced popular sovereignty to decide slavery in some disputed territories. The Compromise of 1850, they’re callin it. I saw there was also heard from mah owner that if they found runaway slaves, it would be legally required for them to return them to the south. He pounded his fist in the air a lil’ when he said that. The Fugitive Slave Act, they’re callin it. Pretty confusin name if ya ask me. I snatched up a snippet of the paper. It told me all I needed to know about the Fugitive Slave Act. It says “And be it further enacted, That when a person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the United States, has heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another State or Territory of the United States, the person or persons to whom such service or labor may be due,” ... blah, blah, blah fancy talk... “may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person.” Now most of this is just fancy codswallop, but I’ve put together a lil’ summary of it all. Basically, it was made to stop runaway slaves from livin’ a free life. If we run to a free state, then we can get reclaimed and caught by our slave owners. Pah! Apparently, it was made by some guy named Henry Clay. God bless that man and curse him also. Now I’ll never get free. But at least some slaves can. I keep on asking mah owner, can we move to a free state, but he is like “No, we must stay in New York.” He always says this with a lil’ smile on his face, as if he knows a secret I don’t. Anyways, Texas got like 10 FREAKING million dollars to pay. And do you know what the worst part is? That slave trade was banned in Washington DC! WHY NOT NEW YORK? WHY NOT ME? I have an inklin’ feelin mah owner’s been hiding something from me. I don’t know...anyways, times up and I gotta go.
Cornelia Westfall It was around noon when I read my very first book. I was 23 years old at the time. For anybody who might someday read what I have read, well, lets just say that what I read was heart wrenching...It showed the true evilness of slavery...handsomely named “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Wrote by Ms. Harriet Beecher Stowe, it talked about this man named Uncle Tom whom had a horrible life as a slave. The book was completely heart wrenching with Uncle Tom being beaten like a whipping post every single day from his master. It made me wonder, should I fight back? Nah...I would only end up like Uncle Tom... If you have not read it then I would suggest you read it. Here is my drawing of the books cover in case you ever wonder what it looks like. Best Regards, CW.
John Westfall: April 1865 I never imagined in a million years that I would be writing this. I give a final look at the plantation, because I as well as my family, am free. I don’t even know what to do anymore...being a slave for those 14 years of my life was all I ever did. Work, sleep, work, eat, work repeat. Now I feel a lack of business, a lack of responsibility. What do I do now? Do I find work? Do I voluntarily still work for my slave owners? This is just mind boggling. It all began I remember when I heard about the Dred Scott Supreme Court Case. Scott’s words inspired me, how he went swinging at the white man Sanford, by suing him for all he had. He said, no declared, that he was free, that he did not have to work countless hours anymore for an owner. And he did it all over the death of his former slave owner. Oh, how I worshipped him! Of course, he lost his case, but it inspired the town, all of it, to form thoughts of rebellion. A rebellion that would soon see the light and take over the town momentarily in the name of the slaves. And how lucky we were, for a few days later, the Emancipation Proclamation came our small corner of New York. The Emancipation Proclamation, our holy decree. The document, Lincoln’s last card, that freed us and our lives from the chains of our owners. Or so we thought. For the Emancipation Proclamation was for the South, and our little corner of New York, the Runners as they are called (for running from Abolitionists) slavery still thrived. So, before long, we had inched back into submission by guns and weapons with nothing to fight with but rocks. We could not fight. Thankfully, we did not have to wait for freedom. The thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution that freed us declared that slavery was abolished for all of the United States. Thank god we have Abraham Lincoln! He’s a great man, and it’s all of our dreams to meet him someday, even if it is impossible. I better go talk with the family now. I will write back later.
Published on Feb 7, 2014