Treatment of White Fathered Slave Children

slave boy
Figure 1.-- The boy here is unidentified. All we know for sure is that the portrait was taken in 1855. This boy almost surely had a white father and black mother. There is no way to be sure, but most likely the father owned his mother and this boy was a slave. Given the way he is dressed, he looks to be well treated. His father may have even sent him north to school.

The treatment of white-fathered slave children varied significantky. Some fathers exhibited considerable affection toward their slave children. There wwere many instances of fathers emancipating their slave off-spring and sending them north for an education and to live as free persons. This was especially true of the boys. It was less common for the girls because in the 1860s girls were not generally sent away from home to fend for themselves. Many slave owners, howver, showed neither affection or attachment to their slave children. Some felt no feeling of familiar bonds what so ever. One of the many almost inponderable aspects of the American slave system is how many fathers condemned their own children to a life of bondage. Some times this involved "genteel" slavery such as becoming house servants. But this also was not always the case. A factor concerning these slave children were the wives. Not all but many wives were deeply embarassed or even offended by the obvious evidence of their husband's behavior. Thus many of the children were sent away to remove the evidence. Some as we mentined were freed and sent north. Others were simply sold to a life of slavery under a different non-family master, out of sight from the father and his wife. It is difficult to assess the relative importance of the different alternatives. I do not know of an author who has attempted to quantify this.


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Created: 7:23 AM 11/20/2007
Last updated: 7:23 AM 11/20/2007