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Historical Document
Letters to R. C. Ballard regarding slave woman abuse

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Enslaved men endured many forms of abuse at the hands of their masters and overseers, including whippings and beatings. Women slaves, too, felt the pain of the lash, as well as other forms of mistreatment. Many women were also sexually abused, whether by being harassed, raped, or forced into concubinage.

The attached letters address two different forms of sexual abuse. They are both addressed to Rice Carter Ballard, a slave trader and planter. Ballard was involved in the interstate slave trade in the 1820's and 1830's, and by the early 1840's he was purchasing and managing plantations in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. He co-owned some of these with Judge Samuel Boyd.

The first letter, J. M. Duffield to Col. R. C. Ballard, is from a man who tries to convince Ballard to let him buy an enslaved girl named Maria. Maria is being terribly abused by Judge Boyd, and Duffield wants to buy her so he can free her. "All these cruelties have been inflicted upon the feeble frame of that girl -- and are frequently inflicted -- she must die under them." It is possible that Duffield has fathered a child with Maria, for at the beginning of the letter he talks of the arrangements he has made for the little girl.

The second letter, from Virginia Boyd to R. C. Ballard, is from a pregnant slave who has been Judge Boyd's concubine. Virginia writes to Ballard from a slave trading post in Texas, where she has apparently been sent by Boyd. She asks Ballard to intervene and keep her from being sold. "Do you think after all that has transpired between me & the old Man, (I don't call names) that its treating me well to send me off a mong strangers in my situation [pregnant?] to be sold...." Apparently Ballard did not help Virginia; he received a letter on August 8 from slave trader C. M. Rutherford, stating that Virginia and one of her children had been sold.

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Related Entries:
Conditions of antebellum slavery

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