Daily Life of a Plantation Slave
What would it be like to be owned by another person as anything else is owned? Slaves were owned by other people. To buy a slave was very costly just as something in a store might be. There are two types of slaves, field workers and house slaves or servants. Most people would think that being a house slave would be easier, but being on task at all times, or being a cook for a whole plantation was not easy.
Being a field slave was not at all easy. A field slave worked from sunrise to sunset, but during harvest, they worked an eighteen-hour day. A field worker was out in the field when the first sign of light shone until it was too dark to see. Women field workers worked the same hours as men. Pregnant women were expected to work until the child was born, and after the child's birth the woman worked in the field with the child on her back. Field workers lived in tiny huts with dirt for a floor. These small huts were no protection against the cold winter winds. Slaves slept on rough blankets inside the hut. On Saturday nights slaves from different plantations usually came together to have a meeting. After a day on a cotton plantation the slaves got in a line to have their cotton weighed and receive their daily food. The minimum amount of cotton to be picked in one day was 200 pounds. The field slaves were driven all day long by a white overseer with a whip. At about the age of twelve a child's work became almost the same as an adult's. Slaves got Sundays off and maybe parts of Saturday unless it was during harvest. On very hot days slaves might be given one to two hours off at midday. Slaves sometimes hunted and fished during their free time. A field worker's day was filled with hard work.
Most house slaves were living under better conditions than field workers. However, house slaves did not get Sunday off and usually attended church with the master and mistress. House slaves cleaned, cooked, served meals, and took care of the children. Some house slaves lived in attics, closets, or corners in the big house even if their families lived in the quarters.
A cook's day was long and hard. A cook got up early in the morning to cook breakfast, and the day ended with cleaning up after dinner and gathering firewood for the next day. These slaves sometimes stole food from the owner. A house slave had a better opportunity to learn how to read and write. They often listened in on their owner's conversations so they were able to warn field slaves of the owner auctioning certain slaves and other important things. House slaves did many other things such as: waited on tables, washed, ironed, took up and put down carpets, hauled the large steaming pots for the preservation of fruits, lifted the barrels with cucumbers soaking in brine, opened up the barrels of flour, swept floors, dusted furniture, hoed and weeded gardens, and collected the chicken eggs. They also took care of the infants allowing the mistress to do whatever she wanted. These slaves also weaved, quilted and spun linens. Although house slaves had more privileges, being a house slave was not much, if any easier than being a field worker.