Upon reading this book it was very moving because the more assignments that are assigned the more interesting the subjects become especially when a student is not used to reading books about History. After reading this book it sure has been an eye opener and has opened doors of what human beings like us went through many years ago. How can someone understand History if one does not take the time to read it and if someone does not read it that how can students understand what History really means and how it reflects to today’s meaning.
This is an eyeopener because many of us take advantage of history and while these important men held character informing the new perspective of the shape of history. Students and even readers will see that reading about History is not bad at all. Slavery was no joke years ago and it breaks hearts to see what these slaves went through and how they were mistreated differently because of their skin color. These slaves even if they wanted to carry out a dream it was not allowed because of so many laws that were placed.
This book should have readers have a vision on not to treat others unequally whether it is due to color, ethnicity, and gender. Once the comprehension and the mindset are in control students will begin to examine the controversies and the struggle for existence during this era was excruciating and no one would like to be in that footstep. As human beings we must shoot for the moon and treat other equally keep in mind History has existed for many years and till this day we are currently making History as well.
Readers will discover the insight of slavery, gender dynamics and the violence that was associated with enslavement. This is a case in the state of Missouri and readers should note that Missouri had laws against raping woman and allowed enslaved person to defend themselves even if it was to take a life. During this period, it is 1855, and now while those laws existed in Missouri it did not aid the slave Celia. Celia was 14 years old when this woman was sold to Robert Newsom, and in course of transporting Celia to the plantation Newsom raped Celia not one once but repeatedly. Celia became pregnant and had several children with Newson and the children became Newsom’s property.
By 1855, Celia had relationship with another slave names George which they both were on the same plantation and she became pregnant by George and she was not sure about the father. George wanted Celia to confront Newsom about to prevent him from having sexual contact with her. In June 1855, Celia did confront Newsom, but Newsom refused so Newsom also came back to Celia’s cabin to assert his rights as a slave owner. Celia hit Newsom when he refused to leave her alone she continued to hit him, and she wanted to keep him away.
She did not intend to kill Newsom according to the record but he did die due to the several blows. Celia was frightened and tried to burn his body and she was not successful so there was the necessary evidence to bring her to trial. Celia did have legal representation however the lawyers couldn’t defend her because slaves were not allowed to testify in court. Celia was not considered a victim of rape because rape did not apply to the slave population. In addition to that it was also held that Newsom owned Celia as property and he could not be a perpetrator of a such crime.
Now this bring us to an important point when students and teachers study the slavocracy and dynamics is that slavery laws only protected the slave owners. What this meant is that if a slave woman was raped she was treated as a piece of property that had been trespassed and damages would have to be paid to the slave owner. Other aspects of the case include the use of hearsay evidence that was not used Celia’s trial. Also, the judge did not allow Celia’s testimony and did not get the full discussion why she hit Newsom and was convicted of murder on October 1855.
Celia was sentenced to death by hanging and people were outraged by this case due to the outcome and because there was an appeal at the Supreme Court, but the execution was still set to take place. Some people tried to kidnap Celia before her execution date and they were able to do so and held her to the execution date passed but that did not save her life. They hung her in December 1855 for the murder of her slave master Newsom. When you look at the case of Celia pay close attention to the key points about the slavocracy and law, children follow the status of the mother so if the mother was slave than, so the kids were also slaves.
The biracial kids that Celia conceived were slaves and it is important to note that enslaved women were not given the same protection as white women. A black woman could be raped and not be against the law and this case there was a double standard when it came to enslave Africans before the court. Proceedings could be eliminated or ignored because slaves were devalued of a human being and not contributed the same rights as the whites.
Melton A. McLaurin wants readers to understand that the purpose of this book is the Celia’s case offers us important insights in how gender and racial oppression make enslaved women completely powerless to protect themselves from sexual exploitation. How the moral vagueness causes by slavery is often reconciled in the courts, whose rulings alleviate the white Southerners crises of conscience when confronted.
McLaurin uses this story also to reveal the tensions that strained the fabric of antebellum southern society. He wants readers to understand and focus on the role of gender that the inability of male slaves to defend slave women and in addition how Celia demonstration on how one master’s abuse of power.
McLaurin wants readers to find this book understanding of the pre-Civil War era. That Celia was an intensely compelling narrative of one woman who pushed beyond the limits of her endurance by a system that denied her humanity at most basic level. This book is a huge eye opener and it has affected many and it shows how time has flown throughout the years and how slavery no longer relates to our current lives.
“Yet the lives of lesser figures, men and women who lived and died in virtual anonymity, often better illustrate certain aspects of the major issues of a particular period than do the lives of those who, through significant achievement, the appeal of the orator or the skill of the polemicist, achieve national prominence (Introduction, ix).”
Melton A. McLaurin is a professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Professor McLaurin has received prestigious fellowships and awards for his research, including the Southern Humanities Council grant, the Teaching Excellence Award from UNC Wilmington, and the Randall Library Scholar Award. Students will find in this Historic Nonfiction that took place in Callaway County, Missouri in the 1850’s that Celia is sentenced to death for killing the Antagonist, which is Robert Newson. There are many masterpieces of American Literature that portray slavery from the perspective of female slaves.
Readers who are curious about the history of slavery in the United Sates will begin to realize what personal experiences these slaves went through during that generation. Readers will understand what message McLaurin is trying to send out that through his focus on the seemingly inconsequential life and death of a slave girl in his exploration, shifting the focus away from an account of what “great people” have done and to an accounting for what.