A Family Folk
Few aspects of the slave's bondage have come in for as much speculative writing as the impact of slavery upon the slave family. Researchers in many disciplines have argued that bondage rent asunder this most basic of American institutions, injured black identity, and left scars to haunt black Americans down to our day. 1 But all this needs further examination.
Planters usually evidenced concern and not a little ambivalence, as several historians have preferred to put it, when reaching the decision to split up a black household. The practice was in sharp contrast to what many felt to be right, though planters consistently overcame nagging doubts. An agent representing John Mc Donogh of Louisiana complained to him that a slave trader "refused to give me a little negro boy and girl from belonging to the Mulattresses, claiming that be could not separate the families. . . ." He added bluntly, "It was a poor reason. . . ." 2 It cannot be denied that the slave family took a tremendous beating; its members were sold to satisfy creditors and purchased to increase personal wealth. Yet the historian U. B. Phillips has written that the "domestic slave trade was merely a readjustment of population within the United States. . . ." 3 From the slave's point of view his observation more than missed the mark.