The Effects Slavery had on African American children’s lives in America
Children are impressionable and vulnerable for many years of their life, no matter what race they are and no matter where they live. Sometimes the circumstances of a child’s life are positive, and unfortunately sometimes they are negative. The environment in which African American slave children grew up was anything but positive, with oppressive authorities who refused to acknowledge them as equal human beings or much less treat them like ones. Culturally, slaves were perceived as property that could be owned and transferred, so there was little concern for the emotions or well-being of their lives. At such a young age, these slave children were subjected to psychological damage and abuse that ultimately had an impact on the way they interacted with others, viewed other human beings, and how they felt about the life they were forced to endure overall. Much of how these children responded was attributed to the slave-owner’s style of authority, and also by the influences of strength and wisdom from their family members, if there were any actual family with them at all. It is unfair to assume a child should understand its circumstances under slavery, and most of the time they never did. The youthful spirit of these children were dampened but never completely stifled. Kids will be kids no matter what, but these particular individuals suffered in a society that made them adjust to a life that was naturally unintended for them to live. A child is typically curious, energetic and
playful, and these qualities even survived through the harsh settings of slavery, despite the idea that they should not exist in that environment.
Enslaved children were particularly vulnerable to separation from their parents. Regardless of the fact that they might be separated from their family, the parents of the slave children kept a strong sense of identity for their family. The fathers would often give the children gifts and pass down family air looms to their children. They constantly tried to keep the family together or make them seem like they had a part of each other. When they could not be with their family they would become a part of a kinship group. A kinship group is when an extended family member or close friend would take the role of the child’s parents. They would be their new family during this hard time when their biological members were stripped away. The children were distracted from all the trials of slavery when they were part of a family or kinship.
Even with slavery’s hardships, slave children’s childhood was not always deprived from them. The children would find toys to play with. Many children played with home-made toys or they played with mud and sticks they found outside. They would also play games together to help them cope with their daily struggles of slavery. One of the most popular games the slaves played was tug-of-war. Singing songs together and dancing at night time was a very popular part of their culture. The slaves would sing songs about their lives to get the emotions of stress and frustration out. Slave children were not completely deprived of their childhood because they kept their sprits high and depended on each other for support.
The children worked a little differently than adult slaves. They would begin to work on the plantations at different ages. The younger children would tote water around and pick up rocks, and would also work in the yards to keep them free of weeds and manicured. Children around six years of age would tend to milking cows and feeding the animals on the farm. By age twelve they were considered adults and would be responsible for the same jobs as their parents. Under all these horribly unfair conditions, it is impressive to note how strong and determined the slaves were in maintaining the few lively aspects of their existence. It was a combination of survival instincts and the knitting of support groups within their culture that helped them to bear all the surrounding forces of negativity.
While most people in today’s time could not imagine what it would truly be like to grow up as a slave, something anyone can appreciate is the fact that these children were able to stay as positive as they did and make the most of their situations. The amount of mental and physical strength displayed by slave children was beyond admirable. To be able to cope with the breaking up and destruction of their family while simultaneously enduring the hateful laws and treatment from their authorities could arguably be one of the most difficult scenarios imaginable for a human being to experience. By playing games and exercising their youthful tendencies, the slave children helped themselves to overcome the resounding negativity that permeated their lives. When viewed from the right perspective, the way in which the kinship groups formed was actually one of the most beautiful parts of the entire slavery-era. It represented that when united under forced maltreatment, a group of people can come together and support one another with love and encouragement no matter what. To think that certain people, especially children, were ever treated in this manner inside the United States is embarrassing and shameful to realize, but as the slave children did during their hardships, Americans and other people around the world should draw positively what they can from it all. Never giving up, keeping a hopeful attitude, and staying close to the people you love will always bring about positive results no matter how awful things can be.