In Their Own Words…

Excerpt from Slavery in the United States by Charles Ball

Title Page: Slavery in the United States by Charles Ball.

Ball's Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball was written with the help of Isaac Fischer and published 1836 agree that the narrative represents a true story.

Charles Ball was born into slavery in Maryland around 1781. As a young man, he was sold to a slave trader from Georgia then sold again to a South Carolina cotton plantation owner, After the owner died in 1809, Ball escaped from slavery. The events he describes about his life in South Carolina occurred roughly between 1799–1809 when he would have been between 19 and 29 years old.

Rice Cultivation

“At the time of which I now speak, the rice was ripe, and ready to be gathered the overseer took the whole of us… [about 160 enslaved field hands] to the rice field, to enter upon the harvest of this crop. The field lay in a piece of low ground, near the river, and in such a position that it could be flooded by the water of the stream in wet seasons. The rice was planted in drills, or rows, and grows more like oats than any other grain, known in the north.

Watering and weeding rice is considered one of the most unhealthy occupations on a southern plantation, as people are obliged to live for several weeks in the mud and the water, subject to unwholesome vapours that arise from stagnant pools, under rays of a summer sun, as well as the chilly autumnal dews of night. At the time we came to cut this rice, the field was quite dry, and after we had reaped and bound it, we hauled it upon wagons, to a piece of hard ground where we made a threshing floor, and threshed it (Ball 1837:203–204).”

NPS Ethnography Program