Enslavement was a horrible existence. Family life was difficult and unpredictable, since slaves were subject to the whims of their owners. Children and parents could be sold away from their loved ones at any time, and women were sometimes subjected to physical abuse by their owners. Despite these conditions, enslaved people were able to keep family and kinship ties alive and create a distinct culture with their own religious practices, celebrations, and holidays.
Many captives refused to accept their circumstances and resisted enslavement in several ways. Working slowly, breaking tools, or running away were all common ways to sabotage work. Some resorted to arson, faking sickness, or poisoning their masters. Even the act of a slave learning to read and write was a violation of Southern law. Some enslaved people like Frederick Douglass recognized literacy as an element of liberation. Douglass taught himself to both read and write, and in his 1845 autobiography he wrote, “It [literacy] was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.”
Escape From Slavery
Named the “Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman escaped slavery by running away on foot. She also took great risks by going back to her plantation to free her family and hundreds of others from captivity.