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Slaved to Submission

"Celia: A Slave" by Melton A. McLaurin

“Celia: A Slave” by Melton A. McLaurin

People are raised to harbor a natural thirst for power and control and develop a strong sense to protect that authority and preserve their ways of life. With these internal motives and desires, southerners of the newly-formed United States of America were comfortable with the power established within the patriarch and unwillingly to surrender their newfound independence, freedom, and supremacy after breaking ties with Great Britain and signing the Declaration of Independence. Although declaring that all men were created equal and were endowed with unalienable rights, including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” racism flourished among the antebellum south, and slavery became a part of the white American Dream. As illustrated through Melton A. McLaurin’s biography, Celia, A Slave, “slavery was an institution fundamental to the existence of southern society, a permanent part of the southern way of life” (18.) Through Celia’s eyes, one is enabled a unique view of the hidden secrets and conflicts of slavery that empowered white males and conserved the power of the master.

An ordinary slave, Celia was purchased in 1850 at the age of fourteen by Robert Newsom, a successful, sixty-year old farmer living within Callaway County, Missouri. Although instructed to cook and help his daughters with the daily household operations, Celia’s primary purpose was not to lighten the housework, however. Having been a widower for nearly a year, Newsom required a sexual partner and had deliberately purchased Celia in order to fill that role, just as one of every five female slaves was expected to. For the next five years, Celia would endure continuous sexual exploitation and abuse and even give birth to two of Newsom’s children. While pregnant with a third child, however, Celia’s ordinary slave life would no longer remain common and unnoticed, but enter history through dramatic trials within court.

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Believing the 17th Century Was in Decline

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At a time when religion was centralized in one’s life, unfortunate events were often interpreted to symbolize religious meanings. Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, and earthquakes were seen as warning signs from God. Even attacks from Native Americans were seen as proof of divine dissatisfaction as God was unpleased with current situations.

In the late end of the 17th century, New England clergymen had been warning of declension, the falling away from Biblically-prescribed ways. This encouraged Puritans to look for signs, which they found inevitably. Even jeremiads were given, in which the Puritans attended sermons filled with dire warnings of impending doom.

With King Philip’s War raging on, many Puritans were fearful of New England’s decline. Cotton Mather was a Puritan who was very convinced of this demise when his five-month-old infant died along with his younger brother, Nathaniel. This, followed by his witness of witchcraft, convinced him and others of the decline of New England.

Sailing to a New Future

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Resting along the western shoreline of Europe, sit Spain and Portugal, juxtaposing against the enormous blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to 1521, the massive body of water was a mystery, a hope, and an opportunity to explore and expand. At first, the countries were unsure of what they would discover once venturing into the unknown. Wishing for trade, riches, and new lands, they funded explorers to set sail and follow the ocean currents. Fortunately, Spain and Portugal were among the first countries to benefit from overseas exploration.

Beginning exploration in 1418, Portuguese began the sailing trend. After Christopher Columbus made his first voyage in 1492, Portugal was pleased to find an entire continent hiding across the waves. Soon, other countries were interested in sharing in the wealth of the “New World.”

Upon discovering North America, Columbus began to create new trades with the Natives. “Their Highnesses may see that I shall give them all the gold they enquire, if they will give me a little assistance; spices also, and cotton,…and mastic…I think also I have found rhubarb and cinnamon, and I shall find a thousand other valuable things,” Columbus wrote, recalling the trades he had transacted and the valuable resources he had brought back to Europe. Soon the Columbian Exchange was created and goods were constantly sailing the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the Americas.

Unfortunately, the Columbian Exchange did not only spread valuable resources and goods, but also unpleasant nuisances. Upon viewing Aztec drawings, one can view the diseases, plagues, and illnesses that struck the Indians, coming from the foreign countries across the sea. Aztecs were covered with spots from diseases such as small pox, as they were sick to their stomachs. Many became ill, and some did not survive the epidemic.

With new equipment such as astrolabes that determined the latitude of ships, and rudders that were used to steer through the ocean, explorers were able to journey all over the world. In 1497, Vasco da Gama made his first voyage to India, opening the portal between the Western World and the Eastern World. New knowledge was shared, along with trade, resources, and inventions. In 1519, Magellan Elcano sailed around the entire world, proving the Earth’s roundness and revealing unexplored waterways. After Spain and Portugal began overseas expeditions, the world began to grow more connected.

Mankind is constantly changing and striving to progress and with the vast unknown sprawled before Spain and Portugal, overseas expeditions were born. Upon finding new land, Europe began to expand and benefit from new trades, resources, and goods. Even the Natives of the Americas were affected, if not always in a fortunate manner. Prior to 1521, Portuguese and Spanish sailors left a lasting impact on England, the Americas, Asia, and the entire world.

The 80’s and Today: Two Different Worlds

Only in my dad’s time was the fashion so hot that it was actually on fire… Who knew that nylon parachute pants couldn’t be ironed? As the years go by, trends come and go, technology changes and grows, and memories are created and forgotten. The time that I live in now is similar to the time when my father attended high school in some ways, yet completely different in other aspects. From the crazy styles to the teched out gizmos, teenagers struggle to break free from their parents and declare themselves independent while trying to make their generation stand out from all the rest as the years continue. With this combination, an array of different times can come.

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