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‘The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina’ analysis and impact

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1778
  • Category: Liberty

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John Andrew Jackson’s work The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina has taught many historians about the slavery experience in the United States’ slave time period. John Andrew Jackson was a slave who escaped and became a free man during his lifetime, but his memories of what slavery was like were written in this narrative to educate the readers of his experience and give the reader an image of what he experienced. In this paper, I will introduce what John Andrew Jackson had witnessed and experienced, what happened during and after his escape from slavery, and how his work is important to study about American slave history and what lessons to learn from it.

Beginning with what John Andrew Jackson has witnessed and experienced as a slave, the story starts with Jackson’s writing about his family and the actions of his masters. His grandfather was taken from his home in Africa. His mother’s name was Betty, and he had ten siblings, of which four were left dead at the plantation that Jackson left from. The masters would punish the slaves for any flaws that they have, as well as deficiencies. Jackson brought his master Thomas water to wash his hands, and by desire, Thomas chose to whip Jackson because “You have been too slow” even though Jackson rushed as fast as he could to bring the water. Jackson was ten to twelve years old at the time, and he reacted by running out of the room and was punished by whippings until blood came out. When we visualize Jackson’s perspective about being taken from the plantation and experiencing cruel punishments either from the pleasure of the masters and/or the small flaw that one slave performs, it begins to relate to other stories from different slaves around Jackson’s time period, which will be discussed later in the paper. Another example of this context would be where Jackson talks about the cotton-picking season. One minister, named Thomas English, would allow his youngest brother Mack, to whip the slaves. As Jackson said, “his whip spared neither old nor young” and Mack ordered each slave to pick one cwt of cotton each day, which was impossible for a child to do, according to Jackson. He described one slave, named Isaac, as a slower cotton picker than the other slaves. Because of this, Isaac was lashed by Mack all the time, up to fifty whips during one of his evenings. These punishments would continue throughout Jackson’s life during his youth as well. Jackson recorded one incident during his youth where one father interfered to save his daughters from being seized by the white people and was punished by several swings in the head by a hickory stick. According to a source that teaches about the treatment of slavery, one of the key statement says “Punishment was often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was carried out simply to reassert the dominance of the master or overseer.” There was some disobedience from Jackson’s time as a child, similar to when he ran away from the slave that was about to punish him, and he witnessed other masters lashed him and other slaves through desire and pleasure. The general topic of American slavery can be described by what the source mentions, and from what Jackson went through as a slave in South Carolina.

John Andrew Jackson’s freedom was one of the most iconic dreams for most slaves to imagine during his time, but even during the escape, Jackson had close experiences to not boarding the vessel to Boston as well as death. The following statements talk about how Jackson made his escape step-by-step according to his writing. Jackson begins the chapter of his escape about a slave in a neighboring plantation having a pony. Jackson bought the pony from him and hid it from his masters. He has been hearing about England, which during the time was declared freedom for the slaves, and he plans his escape to Boston, which is a free city. At this point in his narrative, Jackson was more intelligent than most other slaves. He became more cautious and took note of how his masters would treat other slaves and himself. So, as he heard about Boston, he would be very careful and plan out his escape as he was moving on step-by-step. Jackson continues by taking his pony and riding away from his owners, and then he goes to where he will work for money. He sold the pony and bought a feminine cloak from a Jewish lady. Jackson used this cloak to store useful valuables such as a knife. Then he encountered a vessel to Boston, which is his transportation to becoming free. He then asked the cook if he may be stowed, which at first the cook agreed, but was then rejected because he thought that Jackson was sent by a white man to expose the black people. So, while the cook was not looking, he crept to the hatch and pretended to be one of the gang members. When one man saw him, Jackson asked to open the hatch, and the man said yes thinking that Jackson was a member of the group. At this point, Jackson’s belief of becoming free had risen and he was feeling very hopeful until he became very ill, and then he felt extremely thirsty. He prayed that God will help him strive through the sickness and thirst while hiding from the crew. Then he saw a man and begged for water. After he received the man’s attention, he was spooked and rushed to bring the captain. Fortunately, after hearing from the cook and seeing Jackson’s condition, he was merciful to him and gave him a half gallon of water, which he had drunk all of it quickly. Now, Jackson was found by the crew, but whether it was God answering his prayer or being very fortunate to have mercy, Jackson was welcomed to be officially boarded to Boston. What makes this story unique to Jackson is that it is very specific about the bad conditions that he went through in his escaping process, such as high levels of thirst. After he dismissed from the vessel to stepping into Boston, Jackson described this feeling of freedom as “hell to heaven” and becoming “master of myself.” This chapter devotes to show how emotional it feels to being lashed for unmet expectations and treated like dirt, to not having to worry about those events anymore and pursuing happiness and liberty. Jackson mentioned Boston as “the Land of the free” which portrays the legal ambiguity of slaves to live under if they are fortunate enough to either be born into it or to risk their lives and travel to it. Jackson risked his own life for freedom, which can support that he would either like to die or be free. Either option to Jackson is preferred over continuing a life of constant whippings and punishments from his own masters, and many slaves can relate to what Jackson felt before during this time.

John Andrew Jackson’s work overall is a huge support as to why slavery in the United States was lived in hard conditions and living in this thought of liberty and opportunity. Jackson was one of those slaves who, later in his life, realizes the legal ambiguities of living in freedom. There was one incident during his escape where he was spotted by some masters and they questioned Jackson “You nigger, how far are you going?” According to the South Carolina Slave Code, it says that “Slaves were forbidden to leave the owner’s property unless they obtained permission or were accompanied by a white person.” Therefore, these white men would have to confirm with this slave what he is doing, but they did not acknowledge the Slave Code, unless if it was outdated during Jackson’s time, which would be unlikely. Despite the arrangements in Jackson’s writing, his work in the connection with slavery presents a unique story about Jackson’s experience as a slave in South Carolina. Regardless of race, it is important for every modern American to recognize and understand the full story of slavery in the United States because there are lessons that are taught in slavery that supports us today. It gives us an answer as to why racism and white superiority groups exist today, because of historical evidence that it existed before. According to tolerance.org, a source that promotes why slavery should be taught fully to American students, it states that “[a]lthough there are problems in teaching slavery, there are bigger problems in not teaching slavery.” Now that Americans can understand why slavery is important to learn about, works similar to John Andrew Jackson’s narrative enlightened an atmosphere of change for the slave population. It was not long during Jackson’s time when the slaves earned their freedom nationwide, and the writings from many free slaves inspired a change in the United States’ social system. Racism and white supremacy groups may exist today, but the United States citizens continue to learn about inequality and slavery so the moral atmosphere between one another, no matter how different, is highly respected, which is the overall lesson to learn from slavery as an American today.

In conclusion, the purpose of this paper was to introduce what John Andrew Jackson had witnessed and experienced as a slave, what happened during and after the time of his escape, and how his narrative is important to study about American slave history and what lessons to learn from it. Beginning with what Jackson had experienced, overall, he had seen very depressing and gory moments that happened to himself and to other slaves. He responded as peaceful as possible because any presence of emotional agony would cause worse consequences. When Jackson finally escaped, he finally felt the liberty and happiness that he desired when he set foot on “the Land of the free” which was Boston, the only free city mentioned in his narrative other than the whole country of England. The quotes “hell to heaven” and “master of myself” are very important to acknowledge because Jackson phrases it very literal. In terms of learning about American slavery with the help of John Andrew Jackson’s story, it can best support the reasoning behind racism in society today, and if slavery is not taught to Jackson’s description, it can cause misunderstandings of the barbaric conditions that the slaves went through, as well as how risky it was to escape. Slavery impacted society, and it is necessary to learn from people who experienced it such as John Andrew Jackson.

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