The Noose and the Fiery Stake

In paranormal sequences, part of my novel Where the River Runs Deep (WTRRD) takes place in the colonial South, where slaves worked plantations under brutal conditions.

Historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown wrote, in the introduction to The Mind of the South:…few planters wrung their hands about ownership of chattel slaves. By the ethical standards of their region, they had no reason to feel guilty. Racial barriers and rules to demarcate one race from the other were an integral part of white understanding of how God had supposedly ordered human governance.

Bible passages used to justify slavery: In the Bible, Abraham begets Ishmael on his slave Hagar (Genesis 21: 9-10). In the confusing story of Canaan, (Genesis 9: 24-27) his father Ham disrespects old drunken Noah, and so Noah curses Canaan and his descendants, making them slaves forevermore. In Ephesians 6: 5-8, Paul says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters, according to the flesh, with fear and trembling in singleness of your heart as unto Christ.” (The explanation states: Such regulations did not encourage or condone such situations but were divinely given, practical ways of dealing with realities of the day.) Then there’s the little Book of Philemon in which Paul persuades Philemon to take back a runaway slave.

Planter Peter Creighton in WTRRD owned slaves because he needed unpaid labor to work his land to turn profits. In the mid-1600s, he built a plantation on a barrier island on the coast of North Carolina. Like his Celtic forbears, he ran his plantation as a mini-kingdom. He owned the Africans who worked his land, just as he owned the horses, cattle, and hogs that munched on grass in the meadow. There was no law, other than his.

Slaves hated their captors. Creighton knew his slaves would kill him and his family if it meant they could achieve the freedom so dear to their souls. In the Caribbean, slaves had successfully overthrown white masters. In 1731, a slave revolt on the island of St. John resulted in the ouster of Danish planters. The Haitian Rebellion of 1791, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, resulted in the deaths of thousands of whites and the destruction of plantations. In South Carolina, the Stono Rebellion was crushed in 1739. Over forty whites and forty-four blacks were killed. The Slave Insurrection of 1741 in New York ended with seventeen blacks and four whites (poor whites had joined in) hanged and thirteen blacks burned at the stake.

Slave revolt was always a possibility. In my novel, Creighton has to make his slaves fear him, and he did that by meting out punishments, which included the noose and the fiery stake.

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