Chapter 14: A Short Excerpt on Slavery

Here is a short excerpt from Chapter 14 of Slaves to Freedom. For the first time, Sarah is introduced to a plantation and to the concept of slavery.

Plantation HouseAs grandfather pulled onto the road that led to the main house, Sarah read the words “Kensington Plantation” printed in bold black letters on the wooden sign. She looked past the line of maple trees on either side of the road and was shocked at the huge mansion that stood at the end of it. Large white columns graced both sides of the entrance, lace curtains hung at every window on both stories, and a roundabout where carriages dropped off visitors sat at the bottom of whitewashed wooden stairs. Separated from the mansion by a long, sinuous path were rows of wooden shacks.

“Are they the slave shacks—over there?” she said, pointing. “And that black woman in a rocking chair with colored children at her feet, are they the slaves?”

“Yes, those are the children of most of the adults who work out in the fields. Others work in the house.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Kensington own all this land? Are they like the landlords in Clonaugh?”

“Mr. Kensington isn’t a landlord like Lord Bromwell when we were tenant farmers on his land. Bromwell owned the land but not us. Mr. Kensington owns the land and the slaves that work it.”

“But those shacks look like the falling down lean-tos back home where people lived when they had no place else to go. Why would Mr. Kensington want people to live in such horrid places?”

“It’s not that he wants them to live that way. Slaves aren’t allowed to earn money or own anything in America.”

The sight of the shacks repulsed Sarah. She squirmed in her seat and tried to understand how Mr. Kensington could own people.

As grandfather guided the wagon up to the front steps, a rotund Negro butler in a formal black suit, walked out to greet them. “Good day, Mist’ Browne. I’s Mist’ Roberts. The Mistress, she ‘spectin’ yo’.”

Slaves to Freedom by Kathy Tilghman

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