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THE COTTON KINGDOM: A TRAVELLER'S OBSERVATIONS ON COTTON AND SLAVERY IN THE AMERICAN SLAVE STATES 1861 Courtesy of University of Michigan Library, Making of America
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Passage from Frederick Law Olmsted's THE COTTON KINGDOM
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Document Description
This passage from Frederick Law Olmsted's THE COTTON KINGDOM describes female slaves working in a field. His writing reveals disgust for the black women whose actions and appearance are so contrary to mid-nineteenth century white ideals of womanhood.

Transcript
Leaving the rice-land, we went next to some of the upland fields, where we found several other gangs of negroes at work; one entirely of men engaged in ditching; another of women, and another of boys and girls, ³listing -- an old corn-field with hoes. All of them were working by tasks, and were overlooked by negro drivers. They all laboured with greater rapidity and cheerfulness than any slaves I have before seen; and the women struck their hoes as if they were strong, and well able to engage in muscular labour. The expression of their faces was generally repulsive, and their ensemble anything but agreeable. The dress of most was uncouth and cumbrous, dirty and ragged; reefed up, as I have once described, at the hips, as to show their heavy legs, wrapped round with a piece of old blanket, in lieu of leggings or stockings. Most of them worked with bare arms, but wore strong shoes on their feet, and handkerchiefs on their heads; some of them were smoking, and each gang had a fire burning on the ground, near where they were at work, by which to light their pipes and warm their breakfast. Mr. X. said this was always their custom, even in summer. To each gang a boy or girl was also attached, whose business it was to bring water for them to drink, and to go for anything required by the driver. The drivers would frequently call back a hand to go over again some piece of his or her task that had not been worked to his satisfaction, and were con-

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