Recreational Activities, U.S. South, ca. 1840s

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This record was last updated on 27 Dec 2012

Image Reference

Henry Bibb, Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb, an American slave (New York, 1849), facing p. 23. ( Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-107750)

"The Sabbath among slaves" depicts various activities, e.g., dancing, playing banjo, wrestling, in a romanticized picture of American slave life. Bibb describes this scene: "The Sabbath is not regarded by a large number of the slaves as a day of rest . . . . Those who make no profession of religion, resort to the woods in large numbers on that day to gamble, fight, get drunk . . . . This is often encouraged by the slaveholders. When they wish to have a little sport of that kind, they go among the slaves and give them whiskey, to see them dance . . . sing and play on the banjo. Then get them to wrestling, fighting, jumping, running foot races, and butting each other like sheep. this is urged on by giving them whiskey; making bets on them; laying chips on one slave's head, and daring another to tip if off with his hand . . ." (pp. 21-23). One of the most celebrated of the North American slave narratives. Bibb was born of a slave mother in Kentucky in 1815, escaped from slavery in 1838, and ultimately became a leading figure in the fugitive slave community of Canada.