“We had a purty hard time to make out. Marse Tom didn’t feel called on to feed his hands any too much. I members I had a cravin’ for victuals all the time. My mammy used to say “my belly craves somethin’ and it craves meat.” I’d take lunches to the field hands and they’d say “Lawd God, it ain’t ‘nough to stop the gripe in you belly.” . . .
‘Seems like niggers just got to pray. Half they life am in prayin’. Some nigger take turn ‘bout to watch to see if marse Tom anyways ‘bout, then they circle theyselves on the floor in the cabin and pray. They git to moanin’ low and gentle, “someday someday this yoke gwine be lifted off of our shoulders.” . . .
Marse Tom was a fitty man for meanness. He just about had to beat somebody every day to satisfy his cravin’. He had a big bullwhip and he stake a nigger on the ground and make another nigger hold his head down in the dirt and whip the nigger until the blood run out and red up the ground. We li’l niggers stand round and see it done. Then he tell us, ‘run to the kitchen and get some salt from Jane.’ That my mammy. She was cook. He’d sprinkle salt in the cut, open places, and the skin jerk and quiver and the man slobber and puke. Then his shirt stick to his back for a week or more. . . .
One day I’m down in the hawg pen and hears a loud agony screamin’ up to the house. When I git up close I see Marse Tom got mammy tied to a tree with her clothes pulled down and was layin’ it on her with the bullwhip and the blood am runnin’ down her eyes and off her back. I goes crazy. I say ‘stop Marse Tom and he swings the whip and it don’t reach me real good but it cuts jus’ the same. I sees Miss Mary standin’ in the cookhouse door. I runs round like crazy and sees a big rock and I takes it and throws it and it cotches Marse Tom on the skull and he goes down like a poled ox. . . .
Mammy and me stays hid in the brush then. We see Sam and Billie and they tells us they am fightin’ over us niggers. Then they done told us the niggers ‘clared to Marse Tom there ain’t gwinebeno more beatin’s and we could come and stay in our cabin and they’d see Marse Tom didn’t do nuttin’. And that’s what mammy and me did . . .
I've also references to slaves attacking masters and surviving in reference to the slave narrative of Solomon Northrup, but believe that the defiance of the slaves on William Moore's plantation and their success in curbing a slave owner's violence was quite rare.
Inrock titles the post "Read your History, Read Our History" and I'm at least initially assuming that he's addressing African-Americans and referring to African-American history.
But I'm not sure that the history of William Moore is only African-American history. Certainly, I wouldn't want to deny that African-Americans have a special relation to the history of black people in slavery as their legacy as a people. But shouldn't white Americans view this history as "our legacy" in our own particular ways as well?
I think so.
It goes without saying that whites would identify in complex ways with the slave owner of the story, Tom Waller. Waller was white, occupied a position of slave owner that was monopolized by whites, bought and sold slaves, and mistreated and tortured his slaves in a manner that was peculiar to white slave owners. Waller's monstrous behavior is an important element of the white legacy to those who are descendants of slave owners and those who are descendants of everyone both North and South who enthusiastically supported the slave system.
That legacy can be seen in many areas of American life, including the persistence of many of the racial stereotypes of African-Americans deriving from the slavery period, the constant racial jokes told by whites, and the arbitrary and brutal police behavior toward African-Americans, among other things.
There's tremendous embarrassment, shame, and guilt among whites over the behavior of people like Tom Waller as well.
And that's also an important part of the white legacy from slavery.
But I'd like to suggest another element or possible element in the white legacy of slavery and that's an identification with William Moore and other slaves. It's not the same as the "that could have been me" or "that was my great-great grandmother identification" that can be seen with African-Americans.
But it's still real.
I've taught the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and others several times to white students in Kentucky. Sometimes move toward identification by asking the "what would I have done if that were me" question. Other times and this strikes me as a likely response to William Moore's narrative, there's an identification with the black person suffering from, resisting, and/or escaping slavery as the hero of the story--someone who is admired and liked, someone who the reader has an emotional stake in seeing them succeed.
I think it would be a positive thing if whites could go further in their identifications with the slaves and slave resistance--not just see William Moore, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, or W. E. B. DuBois, MLK, and Malcom X as admirable and heroic figures but view them as persons to be emulated by white people as well as African-Americans and see themselves and many of the good aspects of their own white lives as resulting from the efforts of African-Americans.
In other words, it would be a good thing if whites began to view their own lives as part of the legacy of African-American history.