HIRED SLAVE AND TOWN SLAVE
THE PLANTATION PATTERN which we have been considering in the preceding chapters had several variations. These were, however, of comparatively minor significance in the Alabama of the period. They might have become much more important if the War Between the States had not brought the institution of slavery to an abrupt end.
Some slaves lived, not on broad plantations, but in towns, serving in households, in shops, and even in factories. Some masters, especially in times of depression, hired out their slaves to work for other planters, to serve as construction gangs for railroads, to perform other duties of limited period. In certain cases, owners permitted their slaves to sell their own services and to keep the money they earned, often for the purpose of buying freedom. Life for the town slave and the hired slave was somewhat different than it was for his brother on the plantation. In some ways, he gained in independence and freedom, but his gains were precarious because he frequently lost the protection which the responsible planter gave to his own.
Many slaves worked on steamboats. Every boat had its own deck hands. If the boat belonged to an individual, the deck hands were his slaves; if the boat was owned by the company, they were often the property of the company.
On the average size wheel boat, there were about 30 or 35 deck hands. These men did the firing, loading of cotton, wood, etc, and the unloading. Each boat had 4 men called "stevedores" and 4 who were sometimes called "rollodores." These composed two different gangs, the rollodores business being to start the cotton down