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

A: [The master's family was] supposed to love us and, we [were] supposed to love them -- be eternally grateful -- because they took care of us and it was this family. But there was no family structure. The only family we actually had was ourselves. So we had this false thing of our master lov[ing] us the same as their children. They were going to take care of us forever, so we didn't have to worry about anything because they were never going to sell us, never going to separate us. And as soon as times get tough and he said he was going to lose his 500 acres because of taxes and hard time, first thing he did, he was going to sell his supposed family member, which was you. Your skin was black, so you were going to be sold to make up the difference. You were sold for as cheap as 200 bucks to as high as $2,000, but you were sold to save whatsoever he'd need to save. He wasn't going to sell his mother -- his mother and father and his sister and brother. He was going to sell you and I. So we [were] the one that got sold. And so where was the family structure? I wasn't going to sell any of my people. I didn't have the right to sell my own people back then. And I wouldn't feel right, even if I did.
Cornelia Bailey
Folklorist and Slave Descendant

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