Celia Slave

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Her name was Celia, and she was a slave. Her master, Robert Newsom, was an old and prosperous fellow by the time he purchased her. In almost every way, Newsom embodied the ideal “yeoman farmer” that Thomas Jefferson envisioned during his presidency (Lecture, History 250, 10-7-2015): he was hardworking, self-sustaining, and self-made. Despite Newsom’s “respectability”, the young slave Celia quickly became a victim of one of the ugliest blights in American history: the systematic abuse of black women for sexual pleasure (McLaurin, 24 & 137). Like many prosperous men of the time, Newsom was not simply self-made, but slave-made. He owned several. Celia lived under his oppression for five long years before defending herself. This desperate act of…show more content…
Let us begin with George, Celia’s understandably treacherous slave lover, and his unreasonable demands that set Celia’s case into motion. George’s actions are an example of the common frustration and desperation of slave men who had no control over the sexual abuse of their loved ones by white masters (McLaurin 139-140). His was a reaction to a smoldering attack upon his masculinity, an attack that was a direct result of the dehumanization upon which slavery rested. Because the South was a slave society, this master-slave relationship structure echoed throughout every other aspect of southern life (Faragher, 204 & 215). In Celia’s case, we see this truth through Virginia and Mary Newsom’s position of powerlessness. Whether they wished to assist Celia or not, Newsom’s husbandless daughters were utterly dependent upon their father (McLaurin, 32), a fact that made confronting him dangerous. The importance of this master-slave structure in Southern life, as well as the value of slavery itself, may explain the actions of the Judge presiding over Celia’s trial. By choosing to sustain the objections of the prosecution, Judge William Hall sealed the fate of Celia the slave. Had he acted against the established institution, Celia might have been spared. He chose instead to protect it, probably guided by the…show more content…
The South was a slave society, with nearly every aspect of life touched by the presence of a brutal institution rooted in the dehumanization of black people and the supremacy of white males. At the time of Celia’s trial, Southerners felt that this way of life was being threatened by heated politics playing out both in Kansas and at home. Her fate was guided by the decisions and reactions of Southerners living in this uncertain atmosphere. These decisions, though they are what logically led to Celia’s death, were inevitably and inseparably connected to the institution of slavery. In a sense, the individual decisions were merely a means to an end, an end decided by the fact that Celia lived in a slave society that couldn’t afford the cost of her justice. This fact does not vindicate those who condemned her – the existence of a dynamic defense in her favor shows that original thoughts were not unheard of – but it does help explain what might otherwise seem a series of inexplicably cruel, inauspicious events. The institution of slavery was responsible for young Celia’s tragic end, and hers was just one tragedy of the many that make up slavery’s long
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