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Celia, A Slave: History of Sexual Assaults Against Slaves

1838 words (7 pages) Essay in Human Rights

08/02/20 Human Rights Reference this

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Paper: Celia. A slave

In 1855, a Missouri court sentenced Celia, who was a slave to death for killing her master. Celia had struck Mr. Robert Newsom, her master while resisting a sexual assault. Even though the state law considered “any women” in such circumstances who acts in self-defense, the court ruled that Celia was not a “woman” in the eyes of law. She was a slave and her master had complete power over her.[1]

Thesis Statement:  The trial of Celia, who was a slave, reflects the tragedy in the life of female slaves who went through sexual assault from their owners.

In 1833 the United States of America became the center of New World Slavery. Slave trading had become an established profit-making business. Between 1820-1860 more than 2 million slaves were sold in the internal slave trade market. In the early 19th century 3-4th of the worlds cotton came from the southern States. American cotton was the raw material for textile manufacturers in Great Britain, France and Russia. The cotton kingdom was largest slave society the modern world has known.  The cotton kingdom would not have flourished without slave labor and slave trade. Slave owners dominated the state and the local offices and were the leader of political parties. Hence, slave ownership was economically advantageous for planters.[2]

The slaves were considered as property and ownership of slaves became the route to wealth and status. Planters controlled fertile lands, enjoyed high income and held number of slaves. As slavery was a profit-making system, slaveowners invested in manufacturing sectors. The wealthiest Americans were planters and slave owners, who controlled economic and social environment.[3]

The United States of America resisted Missouri’s request of statehood. The congress debated forcing the state of Missouri to abolish slavery in order to be gain admitted in the Union. The congressional debates over slavery in Missouri shook the nation. The people of Missouri argued that the Congress cannot deny them of slavery which is perfectly legal in half of the states in the Union. The northerners and the southerners sensed the gravity of the debate and feared for the nation’s future.

In this national crisis and differences over slavery, a compromise was negotiated. Missouri was admitted as a slave state to the Union in 1821. “The Missouri Compromise was designed to maintain an even balance between slave states and free states. Southern states had acquired federal recognition of the legitimacy of slavery.” [4]

Slavery was the key to national prosperity. The northerners believed slavery as an obstacle to the America’s economic progress. New Orleans, a significant city of the Cotton Kingdom showed, slavery and economic growth could go hand in hand. In the 19th century, cotton replaced sugar as the world’s major crop produced by slave labors and abolishing slavery would crash the cotton kingdom.[5]

The Americans believed that blacks were inferior to the whites and blacks are only suited for slavery was the pillar of pro-slavery ideology. The defenders of slavery argued that slavery has existed throughout history and it was the natural state of mind. The existence of slavery was essential for human progress and without slavery, slave owners would not be able to cultivate the arts, sciences.[6]

The white southerners argued defending the slavery that bible sanctions it. The southern people believed that it is their right to hold slaves because they noted that Abraham, the chosen servant of God had slaves. Abraham considered slaves as his property and bought and sold slaves like property. The planters further justified that if slave holding was a crime, God would have never commanded Abraham to bond servants.[7]

“Slave owners made sure their slaves completely depend on them. The slaves were prohibited from learning to read and write. Many masters took sexual advantages of slave women, and rewarded obedient slave behavior with favors, while disobedient slaves were punished.” [8] Solomon Northup gives an account of barbaric slave trade practice in Southern America. He recounts his experience of being treated as an animal and how families were separated in pre-civil war period. Inhuman and barbaric slave trade practice in southern America took away the “natural rights of mankind” from the blacks.[9]

During the 19th century, there was no proper legal protection for female slaves against domestic exploitation and rape from their owners. The defense in Celia’s case argued that, Celia should be charged not guilty if the jury finds evidence that she killed her master, Newsom to protect her from sexual assault. The defense further argued that Newsom’s death was a homicide because the sexual demands were resisted by the human property. Celia had legal right to protect herself, but she had no right to kill her master and must be charged guilty.[10]

The trial testimony established that Newsom went to Celia’s cabin with an intention to rape. In Missouri, rape of a slave woman by their white owners was considered trespass, not rape. A white owner could hardly be charged with trespassing upon his own property. The antebellum southerners and law did not recognize the rape of black women because “rape” by definition meant, rape of white women.[11]

 Slavery was abolished in the northern states while it became the peculiar institution of the south. The southern states were largely agricultural states and completely depended on slave labor. The northern states believed holding slaves was morally wrong while southern states believed holding slave was their legal right. This opposite ideology divided the nation.[12] Frederick Douglass followed the northern star to freedom and landed in the free northern state of Pennsylvania.[13]

Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States, this event set an example for the world that racial barriers in America are broken. Obama was popular among the people of all the backgrounds whites or blacks, but his victory does not mean end of racism or problems related to it has been removed.[14] In one of the recent events Republican Congressman Steve King made a racist comment comparing immigrants to dogs. In an interview he said “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” White supremacy is a belief that whites are better than all other races and must be dominant, for this racist remark he was removed from Committee Assignment.[15]

The trial of Celia, who was a slave, reflects the tragedy in the life of female slaves who went through sexual assault from their owners. The owners considered slaves as their property. In the 19th century, cotton was the world’s major crop produced by slave labors and abolishing slavery would crash the cotton kingdom. Inhuman and barbaric slave trade practice in southern America took away the “natural rights of mankind” from the blacks. Many masters took sexual liberties with slave women. The antebellum southerners and law did not recognize the rape of black women. The slaves had no legal rights and could not testify against their masters as slavery was justified, and legal system supported slavery.

Bibliography

  • Gabriel, Trip, Jonathan Martin, and Nicholas Fandos. “Steve King Removed from Committee Assignments Over White Supremacy Remark.” The New York Times.
  • McLaurin Melton, Celia, A Slave (London: The University of Georgia Press, 2014).
  • Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016).
  • Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A documentary history V1 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 207-210.
  • “Introduction to Is Racism a Serious Problem? At Issue.” Is Racism a Serious Problem?, edited by eff Plunkett, Greenhaven Press, 2009.

[1] McLaurin Melton, Celia, A Slave (London: The University of Georgia Press, 2014), 1-9.

[2] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 393-394.

[3] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 399-400.

[4] McLaurin Melton, Celia, A Slave (London: The University of Georgia Press, 2014), 14-16.

[5] Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A documentary history V1 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 221-224.

[6] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 400-402.

[7] Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A documentary history V1 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 217-219.

[8] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 405-414.

[9] Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A documentary history V1 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 221-224.

[10] McLaurin Melton, Celia, A Slave (London: The University of Georgia Press, 2014), 68-70.

[11] McLaurin Melton, Celia, A Slave (London: The University of Georgia Press, 2014), 68-87.

[12] Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty V (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 405-414.

[13] Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A documentary history V1 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 207-210.

[14] “Introduction to Is Racism a Serious Problem? At Issue.” Is Racism a Serious Problem?, edited by Jeff Plunkett, Greenhaven Press, 2009. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://proxy.lccc.wy.edu:2204/apps/doc/EJ3010332109/OVIC?u=wylrc_laramiecc&sid=OVIC&xid=f06265f1  Accessed 29 Apr. 2019.

[15] Gabriel, Trip, Jonathan Martin, and Nicholas Fandos. “Steve King Removed from Committee Assignments Over White Supremacy Remark.” The New York Times. January 15, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/us/politics/steve-king-white-supremacy.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article.

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