Celia the Slave

996 Words4 Pages
Celia, A Slave The story of Celia, a slave who raped and then tried for killing her master in an attempt to stop him, gives us an insight into one of the most disturbing time periods in American history. Her trial was greatly influenced by the ongoing debate of slavery in Missouri during the mid 1800s. Through reading Celia’s story we learn about the institution of slavery, the laws that came from it, and the harsh realities of sexual abuse between slaves and their masters. We also learn how the color of her skin deeply affected the outcome of her trial. Celia’s story teaches us about slavery in Missouri during this particular time period and the laws that went along with it. As the book states in its conclusion, “Antebellum southerners viewed their slaves as both chattels and persons, a paradox reflected in the legal systems of the slave states. Southern society insisted that the law uphold the mater’s property rights, while recognizing that as human beings slaves possessed certain rights, including an inviolable right to life. The fact remains that the inevitable conflicts between the recognized human rights of slaves and the property rights of masters were, with rare exception, settled in favor of the masters. It is also true that while the slave codes of the southern states imposed some restrictions on slaveholders, the codes were designed primarily to restrain the behavior of slaves, not their masters” (140). In Celia’s case, her owner, Robert Newsom, took advantage of the fact that these laws would not be strictly enforced. He continued to sexually exploit Celia because as her master, he knew he would not get in trouble with the authorities for using her for sex. In his head, she was his property and he wouldn’t be looked down upon for doing as he pleased with his “property”. This demonstrates the attitudes of slaveholders during this time period. They
Open Document