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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPhoto of a slave family on a plantation in Georgia
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A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF CHARLES BALL, A BLACK MAN
1854
Courtesy of University of Michigan Library, Making of America

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Photo of excerpt from NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF CHARLES BALL, A BLACK MAN
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This excerpt was taken from a narrative of the life of Charles Ball. Ball describes how he found a surrogate family in the slaves with whom he shared a cabin. Separated from biological family, enslaved African Americans often formed new families within the slave community.


returned to the quarter in the evening, Dinah (the name of the woman who was at the head of our family) produced at supper, a black jug, containing molasses, and gave me some of the molasses for my supper.

I felt grateful to Dinah for this act of kindness, as I well knew that her children then regarded molasses as the greatest of human luxuries, and that she was depriving them of their highest enjoyment to afford me the means of making a gourd full of molasses and water. I therefore proposed to her and her husband, whose name was Nero, that whilst I should remain a member of the family, I would contribute as much towards its support as Nero himself; or, at least, that I would bring all my earnings into the family stock, provided I might be treated as one of its members, and be allowed a portion of the proceeds of their patch or garden. This offer was readily accepted, and from this time we constituted one community, as long as I remained among the field hands on this plantation. After supper was over, we had to grind our corn; but as we had to wait for our turn at the mill, we did not get through this indispensable operation before one o'clock in the morning. We did not set up all night to wait for our turn at the mill, but as our several turns were assigned us by lot, the person who had the first turn when done with the mill, gave notice to the one entitled to the second, and so on. By this means, nobody lost more than half an hour's sleep, and in the morning every one's grinding was done.

We worked very hard this week. We were now laying by the cotton, as it is termed; that is, we were giving the last weeding and hilling to the crop, of which, there was on this plantation, about five hundred acres, which looked well, and promised to yield a fine picking.
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