Recreational Activities, U.S. South, ca. 1840s
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.
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)
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"Recreational Activities, U.S. South, ca. 1840s", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed January 26, 2021, http://slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/985