The black experience in slavery is one of the most poignant in American and world history. And anyone who sets out to investigate that experience quickly sees that there is a great deal to learn about the human behavior of slavery's participants and also about himself or herself. The task, though certainly never dull, is often frustrating and perplexing. The available evidence, even in its most varied forms, is at best fragmentary and often difficult to utilize. Slaves have left us with few written records, though the results of their labors and cultural creations are very helpful in understanding their side of bondage's story.
The question any non-participant in slavery would like to answer is, how did it feel to be a slave? In truth, we can never know this even when we try to see bondage from the slave's viewpoint. My hope has been to try to get inside the slave's experience as much as possible, to convey a mood as well as offer an analysis of slave life. I hope that for most of my readers mood and analysis are inseparable as they began to be for me after a time. For the slave one mood, arising from the sense of his existence as property, seemed to dominate all others, and I have tried to capture this both in the title of my study and the pages that follow. The ex-