Life of Slaves in Antebellum America
Nutrition- Most slaves lived with barely enough food to survive. Each day, a slave typically ate two meals. The meals they ate were not filling because they usually contained cornmeal, salt herring and pork. As well, the meals contained a lot of plant food, especially on plantations. Other times, the food that slaves received was spoiled or leftovers from the whites on the plantations. Slaves did not have proper nutrition for the hard work they were doing; therefore, they got diseases that sometimes caused death from the poor nutrition.


Clothing- Most slaves had very little clothing. Men usually wore pants and a coat in the winter, while women typically wore dresses, knee-long pants, and a shawl. These clothing items left the men and women very cold. Slave children usually wore less clothing than adults. Many children even went naked. When the children were given clothing, it usually consisted of a simple dress or skirt. Evidently, slaves were not provided enough clothing for the conditions they were in and were not when the weather was unfavorable.


Housing- Many slaves lived in shacks that lacked proper ventilation, flooring, and windows. These shacks usually contained beds made of straw and rags. The living conditions were packed with some houses holding around 10 people. The slaves who were servants, or who worked in the homes of the masters, typically received better shelter than those in the fields.
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Punishment- When slaves did not do what their masters wanted them to do, they were punished, sometimes very severely. The masters used their power to threaten slaves with punishment. The threat of punishment often motivated slaves more reason to do their jobs well. Some punishments included verbal abuse, a hanging, separation from family, or whippings.

Click here to see a disturbing photograph of a slave after punishment.

Slaves in the Revolutionary and Civil War- In these two wars, slaves were used as extra manpower in the United States. As well, during these two important wars, slavery was a hot topic. Although slavery occurred in both of these wars, the Civil War mainly dealt with slaves. Because of the Civil War, slaves earned their freedom and earned citizenship and more equal right. The United States economy before and during these wars was dependent on slavery because slavery helped the economy in producing products to be sold, such cotton and other crops. Slavery was a part of our society for such a long time that it was hard to get rid of. Slaves were an important part in both of these wars, and led these wars in the direction they went.

How were house slaves treated compared to field slaves? Why?- House slaves and field slave were treated differently.In general, house slaves had better living conditions. They tended to eat better food, have better shelter, and better clothing. Unfortunately, s=house slaves were often punished more often, because they were closer to the master more of the time. On the other hand, plantation slaves had different conditions. They usually had worse food, less clothing, and less shelter. A benefit of being a field slave was that there was more time to practice their culture. Their masters typically weren't as easily acceessed, therefore they could slack off easier. Since house slaves and field slaves had such different conditions, there lives in slavery were very different.

House Slave
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Field Slave
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Relationships between slaves and their masters- Slaves and their masters usually had a relationship; although, the situation of the slave changed the relationship. Unfortunately, many slave women were punished harshly with their men masters. Many house slaves became close with the children, because they were around them so much. They also were closer with the master and his wife. Many field slaves were distant to the masters, because the masters bossed them to do specific orders, without much choice. Clearly, different types of slaves had different relationships with their masters.

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