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Chap. 1 Prism

Allen Park

My father was a white man. He was admitted to

be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage.

The opinion was also whispered that my master was

my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I

know nothing; the means of knowing was withheld

from me. My mother and I were separated when I

was but an infant -- before I knew her as my mother.

It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland

from which I ran away, to part children from their

mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the

child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is

taken from it, and hired out on some farm a con-

siderable distance off, and the child is placed under

the care of an old woman, too old for field labor.

For what this separation is done, I do not know,

unless it be to hinder the development of the child's

affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy

the natural affection of the mother for the child.

This is the inevitable result.

   I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more

than four or five times in my life; and each of these

times was very short in duration, and at night. She

was hired by a Mr. Stewart, who lived about twelve

miles from my home. She made her journeys to see

me in the night, travelling the whole distance on

foot, after the performance of her day's work. She

was a field hand, and a whipping is the penalty of

not being in the field at sunrise, unless a slave has

special permission from his or her master to the con-

trary -- a permission which they seldom get, and one

that gives to him that gives it the proud name of

being a kind master. I do not recollect of ever seeing

my mother by the light of day. She was with me in

the night. She would lie down with me, and get me

to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone. Very

little communication ever took place between us.

Death soon ended what little we could have while

she lived, and with it her hardships and suffering.

She died when I was about seven years old, on one

of my master's farms, near Lee's Mill. I was not al-

lowed to be present during her illness, at her death,

or burial. She was gone long before I knew any thing

about it. Never having enjoyed, to any considerable

extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watch-

ful care, I received the tidings of her death with

much the same emotions I should have probably

felt at the death of a stranger.

   Called thus suddenly away, she left me without

the slightest intimation of who my father was. The

whisper that my master was my father, may or may

not be true; and, true or false, it is of but little con-

sequence to my purpose whilst the fact remains,

in all its glaring odiousness, that slaveholders have

ordained, and by law established, that the children

of slave women shall in all cases follow the condi-

tion of their mothers; and this is done too obviously

to administer to their own lusts, and make a grati-

fication of their wicked desires profitable as well as

pleasurable; for by this cunning arrangement, the

slaveholder, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves

the double relation of master and father.

   I know of such cases; and it is worthy of remark

that such slaves invariably suffer greater hardships,

and have more to contend with, than others. They

are, in the first place, a constant offence to their

mistress. She is ever disposed to find fault with them;

they can seldom do any thing to please her; she is

never better pleased than when she sees them under

the lash, especially when she suspects her husband

of showing to his mulatto children favors which he

withholds from his black slaves. The master is fre-

quently compelled to sell this class of his slaves, out

of deference to the feelings of his white wife; and,

cruel as the deed may strike any one to be, for a

man to sell his own children to human flesh-mongers,

it is often the dictate of humanity for him to do so;

for, unless he does this, he must not only whip them

himself, but must stand by and see one white son

tie up his brother, of but few shades darker com-

plexion than himself, and ply the gory lash to his

naked back; and if he lisp one word of disapproval,

it is set down to his parental partiality, and only

makes a bad matter worse, both for himself and the

slave whom he would protect and defend.