Samuel Bell

Samuel Bell was an enslaved person in Kentucky for 12 years before Emancipation.  In this excerpt, he describes how the enslaved didn’t truly have rights under the law, and because of this, the enslaver’s rules were the only laws that mattered.
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“[John Bell] … was a good and a just man and fed his slaves well. He only used the lash when it was absolutely necessary. You know how it is in the court! Well, it was the same way on the plantations in slavery days. A good slave was seldom punished, but mean ones had to be punished to prevent their taking advantage of their master and the other slaves. Slaves were not subject to the laws of the land, and this punishment had to be governed by a slave’s deeds and errors. The master’s will was the only law he was compelled to obey. When a slave refused to work, he was flogged until he was willing to work. The master had to feed and clothe him and expected him to repay with work.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Samuel Bell1853UnknownJohn Bell
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, INIndianaKentucky
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceFirst person, whipped