It is generally assumed, in the days when
slave-trading was commonplace between Africa, England and America (as well as
in other parts of the world), that those enslaved were always coloured.
Certainly that is how the vast majority think
of slavery In the States and, of course, there is no doubt that most of those
who were bought, sold and used rather like cattle were coloured. There have
been plenty of books, pictures and films to make that evident.
However, what is not so generally known is
that, in the Southern States (the heart of slave-land), whites could be
enslaved, too. Admittedly, it was unusual ... but it did happen. And, under the
laws of those Southern States it was not considered particularly illegal. Even
if someone tried to make out that it was - in a Court of Law - there would be
politicians, Judges, even a Governor, prepared to make sure the case would be
thrown out. Influence and bribery were rampant. If you were rich and powerful
enough, you could get away with murder. Literally.
You could also get away with slavery.
it suited the upper crust. Those who ruled.
Nobody, of course, gave a damn about the
blacks who were enslaved. There might only be ructions if whites were involved.
However, such ructions became mere ripples on the pattern of society. People
who mattered turned a blind eye to goings-on which would be considered
monstrous today. Because, as it has already been said, it suited them.
It is easy to understand how blacks were
enslaved. They were shipped from Africa by the British and simply sold to
what about whites? Well, business being what it was (and still
is) in the States - that is to say, viciously competitive - men, and their
families, could lose fortunes overnight. In order to avoid disgrace, bankruptcy
and utter ruin, it was not unknown for a man to barter his wife or daughters
(maybe both) in order to escape the clutches of a demanding creditor. Once
bartered, those women became the property of that creditor. Legally.
Just as if the man had bartered goods against his debts and not human beings. Amazing today ... but not so then, when America was really a rugged
This story concerns an estate upon which a
number of such bartered white slaves have been assembled - consigned to an
existence of cruel servitude.
This estate - Lauderdale - is owned by Mrs. Gloria Vance, a wealthy, well-preserved woman of 40.
She lives apart from her husband Charles but they are on good terms and she is
often able to profit from his commercial machinations. Charles Vance is
ruthless in his dealings and most men who challenge him are ruined. One such
man was Ralph Fanshawe who not only lost his estate
and all his money but had to barter his wife, Lucinda, as well. Thus Lucinda -
a proud, haughty and beautiful woman of 34 - became Charles's property. Quite legally. He, in turn, gave her to his wife Gloria as a
slave. Quite legally.
Thus Lucinda (soon re-named Lucy) joined half
a dozen other white women, of similar social background to herself, some wives,
some daughters, who were kept as slaves on the
Lauderdale Estate. They were not field slaves but house slaves and were part of
entourage which also contained some forty black women.
Gloria Vance was particularly pleased to
become the owner of Lucinda Fanshawe since, some time before, they had twice met socially and Lucinda -
an 'aristocratic' Bostonian - had rather looked down on Gloria since she had
married into 'Trade'. Though a guest on the Fanshawe Estate, Gloria had been treated with a coldness
that almost amounted to contempt. So revenge was particularly sweet.
Naturally, at first, Lucinda could not
believe her new status. Also, she was rebellious. Quite
understandable in a proud woman of her position. However, after two
quite merciless thrashings (administered personally by Gloria Vance) she
underwent her training as a household slave at the hands of the Housekeeper, Mrs. Duprez and the Major-Demo, Fezel.
in despair, though repeatedly degraded, the one thing that helps Lucinda endure
is the thought that, one day, she will gain her revenge over Gloria Vance.
But that day may well be a long way off. if it ever arrives. And, meanwhile, Lucinda learns the true
meaning of slavery . . . its bitter humiliations, its arduous toil and its
NOTE: The slaves in the Lauderdale household
are under the supervision of the Housekeeper and the Major-Demo, who have six
male and female assistants known as Flunkeys and Maids.
"Lucy - you are to report to Mrs.
Duprez. At once."
who at that moment was on hands and knees putting a good polish on one of the
lavatory seats in the guest quarters, rose to her feet. She felt the ache in
her back but that was as nothing to the permanent ache in her heart. Nor the
stab of fear which had gone through her at the order she had just received.
What could it imply? Nothing to her good, for sure.
"Yes, Miss," she said humbly,
bobbing a curtsey to the hefty-looking Maid who stood in the doorway. Lucinda
had learnt to show respect to all Maids and Flunkeys at Lauderdale, hard and
humiliating as that had been. However, to this one in particular - who was
Mary, a young woman of Dutch extraction and who was reputed to have the
strongest right arm of all the Maids. When she used her 'stinger' on you, you
knew all about it ... a 'stinger' being a leathern thong which Maids and
Flunkeys carried and which they were empowered to use on all slaves. Up to five
strokes at any one time for an offence which might be alleged or real ... such
as carelessness, slackness, laziness, lack of respect and so on.
Perhaps it can be imagined what it was like
for a woman of Lucinda Fanshawe's breeding and
background to have to bend, raise her skirt and then receive the 'stinger'
across the thin cotton of the drawers she wore. Humiliating and painful as it
was when it was a Maid who administered punishment, it was naturally even worse
when it was a Flunkey. However, now, after nearly a month at Lauderdale,
Lucinda did not delay when she received the order - "Bend over . . ."
For she had learnt, if one obeyed
immediately, that punishment would be less painful. Less
severe. For the same reason, she also strove, with increasing success,
to keep her bottom square whilst receiving the 'stinger'.
One day... But the burning rage and bitter
hate in her heart did not lessen.
Oh, one day, Gloria Vance, I will be
Lucinda hurried along the corridor, then down
stairway. Two fashionably-gowned women were mounting it. As she must, Lucinda
backed to a wall and curtsied as they went by. She was quite ignored ... and
went on her way, gall in her throat. Once I used to dress like that, she
thought. Not in a cheap print-striped dress ... with maid's apron and cap.
another staircase. Along a more austere
corridor. For she was now in that part of Lauderdale
know" as 'Slave Quarters'. Then, with beating heart, she stopped
before the Housekeeper's wide door. It ebony black high polished, with brass
fittings which also gleamed.
which seemed an eternity. "Come in ..."
Mrs. Duprez was seated behind her
desk. She was a striking-looking woman of 35. An octoroon (that is to say with
one eighth coloured blood in her), she nevertheless
would have been taken for white, except perhaps for a slight Negroid fullness
of her lips and wide-flaring nostrils.
Lucinda curtsied then advanced to the
desk. The Housekeeper did not look up
for quite some time ... and, in Lucinda, the tension mounted. Then, suddenly,
hard dark brown eyes were upon her.
"Ah, Lucy ... "
"You sent for me, Mistress." It was
the correct form of address ... and it behoved no slave to forget it.
"Naturally, girl, or you would not be
here." All female slaves were addressed as 'girl' whatever their age.
Perhaps not so bad at 18 or 19 but extra humiliating when one was 34!
"I beg pardon, Mistress." It was
best to grovel.
"You will probably have learnt from your
fellow-slaves, Lucy, that every Wednesday is set aside for what are termed
'Official Punishments' ."
Lucinda felt a sickness rising. Her heart
began to flutter. "That is when," continued Mrs.
Duprez calmly, "slaves who have not responded to
reminders from the 'stinger' or who have committed some serious offence, are dealt with more severely. They are either caned
or birched. And this is done in the main Drawing Room before Mrs. Vance's invited guests."
Lucinda's feeling of sickness increased. So
did the fluttering of her heart. She had heard of this enormity yet had not, so
far, begun to let herself truly believe it. How could anything so shamingly indecent be considered? Let alone allowed?
"You, Lucy, are to receive such an
'Official Punishment' this afternoon."
Lucinda's legs seemed to turn to water. Her
hands were trembling. "B-But ... why ... why ...
M-Mistress ... what h-have I done?"
"You have a short memory, girl. When you
first came here, you had the temerity to spit upon your new owner!"
That was true. Lucinda's head reeled. Now it
seemed impossible that she could ever have dared to do such a thing! Yet, then,
it had seemed quite natural. And justified. Oh how
quickly she had changed!
"B-But ... I... w-was ... n-new ...
Mistress ... I didn't under ... stand ..." Lucinda half wailed.
"That is no excuse," said Mrs. Duprez firmly. "At the
time, your owner promised you a birching when your training was finished. Now
it has. So now you're going to get it. As to its severity, that is entirely at
the discretion of Mrs. Vance."
Lucinda suddenly found herself down on her
knees, hands stretching out imploringly.
"P-Please ... please .... I beseech you ... Mistress ... birch me
now . . . here and n-now ... but not in front of ..." Lucinda burst into
tears and covered her face in her hands. Mrs. Duprez sat impassive.
"N-Not ... me ... u-ughh ... mmfff ... not me ..." continued Lucinda between her
sobs. "Not in f-front of them ... not me ... remember who I ... I r-really
am ... oh God ... surely they can't do that to ... m-me ..."