Blackstrap Molasses and
Its Impact on Behavior
Of central importance to the numerous problems involved in the maintenance of slaves was the relationship between diet and health. How did bondsmen keep up their stamina through long hours of work? One learns immediately from existing primary and secondary sources that only a handful of slaveholders raised enough varieties of vegetables, fruits, and meats to satisfy the nutritional needs of their families and slaves. 1 Yet frequently, both families and slaves lived solely on the food crops cultivated on the plantation and the livestock and poultry fattened there. All things considered, it is doubtful that the slave's diet bestowed upon him even the appearance, if little else, of good health, though several historians have written that it did. 2 We have not paid as much attention to the details of nutrition during slavery as perhaps we should. The slave's diet reveals a great deal about the quality of his life, his endurance at certain labors, and his general conduct and mannerisms.
Throughout the Old South masters held to similar standards in their definitions of appropriate basic diets for slaves. They rationed out a peck of cornmeal and two to four pounds of bacon (salt pork) a week to each full hand. On numerous Atlantic