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Modern Voices
Catherine Clinton on the Weeping Time
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Q: Please discuss how the threat of being sold affected enslaved people.
Catherine Clinton

A: Perhaps the greatest horror of slavery would be [that] you could be denied your own children. That although you were born into a family and you might indeed bear your own children who would be your descendants, you were somehow cut off from them by slavery. It was a system which could destroy blood ties, which could not destroy the bonds of affection which might try and survive and rise above and transcend the system of slavery. But as you were born into the world and knew who you were, that selfhood could be denied by society around you. You didn't own your own body. You had no legal standing. You were not a person under the law. And indeed, that kind of constant reinforcement of alienation was one of the greatest psychological damages of slavery. And even if you might transcend the psychological damage that this did, you nevertheless knew that at any time, your family could be taken away.

Catherine Clinton
Writer and Historian

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