Kentucky and Slavery

Submitted by: Sharon Kouns

The Ironton Register September 12, 1867

       A correspondent writing from Kentucky describes as follows the domestic life there in the days of slavery:
“Among the colored people may be found many men of wealth, intelligence and undoubted mental and moral worth. Slavery was never as absolute in Kentucky as in other Southern States, and the Negroes were allowed many privileges. The reason of this will be manifested when we consider the close relation in which the Kentuckian lived with his slaves. He was fond of horses and the black hostler had his confidence; they discussed the merits and points of the horses together, the slave on such questions often proving more intelligent than his master; they bet their money and won or lost together, and were in a great many respects personal and confidential friends. The pretty yellow girls on the plantations were the master’s concubines, and their children he would give to his friends, but seldom or never would sell. The most intelligent slaves were made servants in the family, and were generally treated with great consideration and kindness. Each master has his black boy and every Miss her waiting girl. As is usually the case with the young, these body servants became great favorites, and master and boy, mistress and girl were fond of each other. In the love affairs of the young master the boy was his confidential agent and tried friend. He carried all master’s love notes, and not only the answer, but Sam’s report was looked for with more anxiety than the letter itself, for however formal the reply might be, Sam could tell how old Mistress looked when he delivered the letter; whether Miss blushed and seemed agitated or not; what the servants said, and a thousand other things intensely interesting for the lover to know. Generally, the wily slave made love to the mistress’s maid, and thus the private thoughts almost of the young girl came to the master. If the match was opposed by cruel parents, Sam, somehow or other, nearly always managed to fall in love with a black girl on his master’s sweetheart’s plantation, and it was he who arranged the escape, and waited by the garden wall with saddle horses for the eloping lovers.
“What the boy was to the master, the young slave girl was to her mistress. – She was consulted on all matters of importance, kept young mistress’s secrets, told her what dress she looked prettiest in, which one her lover liked best, and what Sam told her young master had said of her complexion, her eyes, her teeth and her foot. It was in the lap of the faithful slave the warmhearted Southern girl, when crossed in love or grieved with her lover, laid her pretty head and cried as if her heart would break; and it was into the listening and sympathizing heart of the black all her grief’s and troubles were poured. If young master or mistress went to school, the slave went too, and became for the time being servants in their boarding houses. If the young people traveled, the blacks went along and saw all they did. These body servants generally picked up a great deal of intelligence, learned to read and write, and are now the best informed colored men and women in Kentucky.
The __delity of the slaves was often rewarded by the kindest of treatment and happiness of life. If the young people married, what less could they do than take their body servants who had shared their sorrows and joys, into their household?”