The following annotations to The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina were compiled in the fall of 2000 by Elizabeth Veazey and Meredith Costa, first-year students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a class project in Professor William L. Andrews's First-Year Seminar on Slavery and Freedom in African American Literature and Film. We welcome any corrections, additions, or suggested revisions of these annotations. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ower—could be 1. your (old English) or 2. our
Mrs. Stowe—Harriet Beecher Stowe; (1811-1896) American writer and philanthropist, best-known for the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-52).
Wilberforce—William Wilberforce; (1759-1833), British politician and philanthropist prominent in the struggle to abolish the slave trade and to abolish slavery itself in British overseas possessions.
Clarkson—Thomas Clarkson; (1760-1846), abolitionist, one of the first effective publicists of the English movement against the slave trade and against slavery in the colonies.
Wesley—John Wesley; (1703-1791) founder of Methodism which led to the founding of the of Methodist churches.
William Cowper—(1731-1800) English poet and hymnist.
"Skins may differ. . . ."—From "The Negroes Complaint" (1788) by William Cowper
"I was not born . . ."—from an English children's prayer. Full text (from Sampler Gallery by Needlework Antiques): "I thank the goodness and the grace
Which on my birth have smiled
And made me in these christian days
A happy English child
I was not born a little slave
To labour in the sun
And wish I were but in the grave
And all my labour done
My God I thank thee who has plann'd
A better lot for me
And placed me in this happy land
Where I may hear of thee".
The Times—The New York Times.
President Lincoln—(1809-1865) Sixteenth president of the United States from 1861-1865; he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
G. F. Cooke—(1756-1811) English actor who acted in Newcastle, Manchester and London then came to the United States in 1810.
Nightingale Slaver—1. Made to carry tea, this ship was instead used as a slave ship captained by Francis Bowen, the "Prince of Slavers." In April 1861, it was captured by the United States and condemned, but was later used as a supply ship in the Civil War.
Sir John Hawkins—(1532-1595) English slave trader and rear admiral who traveled to Sierra Leone and kidnapped Africans to sell in Hispaniola.
King George III—(1738-1820) longest reigning king of England, who was on the throne from 1760-1820.
Thomas Jefferson—(1743-1826) founding father, who drafted The Constitution and was president of the US 1800-1808.
Ben Franklin—a founding father of the United States who was also a scientist, an inventor, a statesman, a printer, a philosopher, a musician, and an economist.
"four millions out of the twenty . . ."—In 1860 the population of the United States was 31,183,582 and the slave population was 3,950,546. (Census of 1860.)
Stonewall Jackson—(1824-1863) Confederate general in the Civil War.
Oliver Cromwell—(1599-1658) English general and Puritan statesman.
Pope—(1822-1892) Union general in the Civil War relieved of command following the Confederate triumph at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
M'Clellan—(1826-1885) George McClellan, Confederate general in the Civil War placed in charge of the Army of the Potomac after the Union's first major loss.
Dr. Mackay—(1814-1905) Charles Mackay; a Scottish poet.
"There's a good time coming . . ."—Quotations from the poetry of Charles Mackay: There's a good time coming, boys!
A good time coming. (From: "The good Time coming.")
Cannon-balls may aid the truth
But thought's a weapon stronger;
We'll win our battles by its aid,
Wait a little longer. (From: Ibid.)
"let my people go"—used frequently in the Bible in places such as Exodus 5:1, Exodus 8:1, and Exodus 9:1 referring to God's chosen people, the Jews.
"Sound the loud timbrel . . ."—from a popular song based on the concerto "Sound the Loud Timbrel" written by Charles Avison (1709-1770) and published in London.
timbrel—an ancient percussion instrument like a tambourine.
Horse nettles—prickly North American weed belonging to the nightshade family.
varmint—a despicable, obnoxious, or annoying person.
castor oil—colorless pale liquid used as a cathartic.
mortification—gangrene, tissue death, or severe infection.
articled—bound in writing to serve an attorney for a specified period of time.
"In the Southern States . . ."—By 1700, most Southern colonies had enacted slave codes, which prohibited slaves from having weapons, gathering in groups, and leaving their plantations without passes among other restrictions. Slave patrols were established to enforce these slave codes and they became "the first truly American police system." (From "Criminal Justice" by Joel Samaha.)
screw cotton—"cotton was pressed with a square screw cotton press for cotton bales: before that the Cotton was pressed in large bags." ( http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Metro/4985/green008.htm)
chitterlings—part of small intestine of a pig usually fried and served with a sauce.
Psalmist—the author of the Psalms of The Bible, in this case David.
"They search out iniquities . . ."—Psalm 64: 6-7.
Quaker—member of the Society of Friends, a society which supported the abolition of slavery among other noble causes.
Sumpterville—(18 00-1855) Located in the Sumter district of Sumter County, Sumpterville was a small town that grew slowly after a courthouse was built in 1800; in 1850 the population was 840 and 330 out of this number were slaves. Then it became Sumter in 1855. (Gregorie, Anne King. History of Sumter County. Library Board of Sumter County: Sumter Co., SC, 1954.)
peck—a unit of dry measure equal to 7.57 liters (8 quarts).
mastiff—big smooth-haired dog: a breed of large powerful smooth-haired dogs, often tan or grayish with a dark face.
American Camp-Meeting—an evangelistic gathering held in a tent or outdoors and often lasting several days.
Lynch law—punishment without legal trial: the condemnation and punishment of somebody by a mob or self-appointed group without a legal trial.
stinging worms—fuzzy or spiny caterpillars that inflict a painful "sting" upon contact.
ginning house—the ginning equipment that separated the cotton fiber from the seed.
the New Ground—South Atlantic U.S. land cleared for cultivation: land that has been recently cleared and prepared for the cultivation of crops.
cat-o'-nine-tails—nine-corded whip: a whip with several, usually nine, strands of knotted rope, used in the past for flogging in the navy.
forecastle—1. front part of ship: the space at the front end of a ship below the main deck, traditionally where the crew's quarters were located 2. raised deck at bow: a raised section of deck at the bow of a ship.
Salem—a city in northeastern Massachusetts, on Massachusetts Bay, northeast of Boston.
bagging—1. cloth for bags: coarse material used for making bags.
Fugitive Slave Law—acts passed by the United States Congress in 1850, intended to facilitate the recapture and extradition of runaway slaves and to commit the federal government to the legitimacy of holding property in slaves. Both laws ultimately provoked dissatisfaction and rancor throughout the country.
whitewasher—one who conceals the unpleasant facts about something.
bushel—1. any of various units of dry capacity 2. a container holding a bushel 3. a large quantity.
mosquito-hawk—a dragonfly (regional.)
Independents—nonparty politician: somebody, especially a politician, who is not a member of, does not represent, or does not support any political party.
Black River Swamp—located in Georgetown County, near Andrews, SC; obtained its name from its tea-colored water- the color is created by high concentrations of organic carbon found in its water.
plaiting—to weave three or more strands of something over and under each other, usually to form them either into something that looks like a rope or into a flat band.
flog—to beat a person or animal very hard: to hit very hard using something such as a whip, strap, or stick.