The Story: Life as a Slave

The slave trade in North Carolina separated countless husbands, wives, parents and children. On the whole, slaveholders cared little about the kindred bonds of slaves, and tore families apart by selling slaves for profit.

"I have seen slave mothers fall over in a dead faint when their children were sold away from them. The mothers would have to hand down their children and when they fell over in a faint men would pick the poor women up and carry them away just as if they were dogs. Those mothers loved their little children just the same as white mothers love their little babies, and some of them were never happy again and some went insane as did my old mother when her children were sold away from her."

Samuel Hall, Iredell County, N.C.

Because the large plantations of the Lower South needed more slaves than the smaller farms of North Carolina, it was not uncommon for slaves in the state to be sold to slave traders who took them south to Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama. Once a family member was sold and taken to the Deep South, they became almost impossible to locate or contact.

"It was some time after this, that I married a slave belonging to Mr. Enoch Sawyer, who had been so hard a master to me. I left her at home, (that is, at his house,) one Thursday morning, when we had been married about eight months. She was well, and seemed likely to be so: we were nicely getting together our little necessaries. On the Friday, as I was at work as usual with the boats, I heard a noise behind me, on the road which ran by the side of the canal: I turned to look, and saw a gang of slaves coming. When they came up to me, one of them cried out, "Moses, my dear!" I wondered who among them should know me, and found it was my wife. She cried out to me, "I am gone."

I was struck with consternation. Mr. Rogerson was with them, on his horse, armed with pistols. I said to him, "for God's sake, have you bought my wife?" He said he had; when I asked him what she had done; he said she had done nothing, but that her master wanted money. He drew out a pistol, and said that if I went near the waggon on which she was, he would shoot me. I asked for leave to shake hands with her, which he refused, but said I might stand at a distance and talk with her. My heart was so full, that I could say very little. I asked leave to give her a dram: he told Mr. Burgess, the man who was with him, to get down and carry it to her. I gave her the little money I had in my pocket, and bid her farewell. I have never seen or heard of her from that day to this. I loved her as I loved my life."

Moses Grandy, Camden County, N.C.