The Black Slave Driver
Among those slaves most important to the functioning and harmony of plantation life, the slave driver (foreman) held a slight edge. His but, perhaps a little larger and better furnished than those of his neighbors, sometimes stood in the center of the slave community. On farms with only a few bondsmen, although there might be no slave known officially as a slave driver, there was usually one who served from time to time as a field leader. His duties in the fields could have considerable impact on the behavior of fellow bondsmen and were crucial to the economic well-being of the slavebolder. One master wrote: "A man would do better to have a good Negro driver, than to have an overseer. . . ."1 Another noted: "The bead driver is the most important negro on the plantation."2
What manner of men were these foremen? One ex-driver said simply: "I allers use my sense for help me 'long; jes' like Brer. Rabbit. 'Fo' de wah ol' Marse Heywood mek me he driber on he place. . . ."3 Slaveholders' comments provide some other insights. "Nearly every large plantation further South," wrote J. D. B. De Bow, "has a driver, who is a negro advanced to the post from his good character and intelligence." Good character meant any
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Publication information: Book title: This Species of Property:Slave Life and Culture in the Old South. Contributors: Leslie Howard Owens - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1977. Page number: 121.