Celia, a Slave

Celia, a Slave is the epitome of the relationship between slaves and their owners and also the slaves and other whites in the 1850’s. This is based on her interactions with her owner Robert Newsom and her reactions mainly with the community involved in her court case. These relationships affected more so the women slaves rather than the men slaves because of their weaker nature as perceived by the sexual differences of the time period between men and women in general.

Slavery is questioned by the morals of the Northerners and some Southerners though it is common in the South so most Southerners reinforce the ideas of slavery with their own morals, believing slaves as meaningless because of their difference. Celia was bought by Robert Newsom in 1850 at the approximate age of fourteen. Newsom was without a wife at “sixty years of age,” (McLaurin, 21) because she died in 1849 and he “needed more than a hostess and a manager of household affairs; he required a sexual partner. (McLaurin, 21) This shows that his motives for purchasing Celia were only for personal satisfaction. “Newsom seems to have deliberately chosen to purchase a young slave girl to fulfill this role. ” (McLaurin, 21) Given the way it’s presented, owners were not meant to partake in the use of slaves as sexual partners.

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“Newsom regarded her as both his property and his concubine. ” (McLaurin, 22) This proves that she was regarded by him as a possession, showing the general relationship between master and slave. We know that his rape of Celia was no isolated incident, the act of a demented individual, an even which, had it been immediately discovered, would have raised a storm of moral outrage among white southerners, including the residents of Callaway County. ” (McLaurin, 24)Southerners took acts of sexual interactions between whites and slaves as a huge insult to their lifestyles. Likewise, acts of sexual interactions between anyone with a female “under fifteen years of age was uncommon. (McLaurin, 25) Newspaper accounts of the murder at the Newsom farm fueled local fears by reporting that the crime was committed without sufficient cause, proving that even the media was of poor taste when dealing with slave news.

Though her story was that of defense from her master: she had acted alone, struck her master to stop his advances, and had not intentionally killed him, Missouri’s pre-Civil War court system was unable to protect her claims because she was a slave and they were unwilling to change their beliefs about slaves and how they should be viewed and treated in society. as proved previously in the case Dred Scott vs. Sandford.

)These were the most frequent reactions of the Southerners; however a man named John Jameson took her side and defended her and her actions toward Robert Newsom as acts of defense against his advances, and claimed she had the right, by law, to use deadly force to protect herself against rape, regardless of her previous sexual relations with him. Though, because of the southerners’ hate of the slaves and their desire to treat them as inferiors, they did not deliver the evidence necessary to acquit her for her “crime. Having lost the trial, Celia’s attorneys filed a motion to request a new trial on October 11th. However, Judge Hall denied the motion on October 13th and Celia was sentenced to be hung on November 16th.

She was given this time before being executed to birth her child, as law stated that pregnant women could not be executed. This shows that there is a bit of equality between women when dealing with court systems at this time, and also shows that they did have the morals and ethics to give the child a chance at life even though its mother was condemned.After the sentence was made, Judge Hall was asked to stay the execution until an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court was made, he promptly refused this. Another representation of support of slaves in the south is that on November 11th when it looked as though the Supreme Court would not respond to the appeal, supporters of Celia took drastic measures and that night Celia escaped from prison, not being recaptured until after the set date of the execution.Having missed the previous execution, the new date of December 21st was set so December 6th Jameson again sent a letter to the Missouri Supreme Court asking for a stay of execution until the case could be heard, to which on December 14th they ruled that there was no probable cause for the appeal, and refused the stay of execution, allowing Celia to be executed on December 21st. On Saturday, June 23, Celia confronted her master directly, asking him to leave her alone.He ignored her request and told her he would visit her cabin that evening.

This shows the lack of power and influence of the woman slave, leaving her helpless, whereas a black male slave could have told a woman to stop making advances on him and she would stop out of fear. That night, Robert came as promised and Celia, failing to halt his advances with words, took matters into her own hands to forcefully stop her master from making advances on her and swung a large wooden stick.The first blow was not enough as he staggered back and then recovered and started forward again, so she hit him yet again, knocking him the floor and killing him. This time period had a law that slaves being raped could use deadly force if necessary to defend themselves and not permit the rape to happen. Also she feared what might happen if she were to reveal the terrible acts forced upon her to the southern society, and she refused to until starting a un-allowed relationship with another slave, George.When she told him, he became deeply distressed and refused to be with her until she halted Robert’s advances on her. This shows how the relationships affected slave men. Celia was an innocent girl exploited by her master inappropriately.

She was treated unfairly by the judge and jury involved in her trial and finds no defense from the Newsom girls although they knew what was happening, and found defense from a few members of the society including John Jameson. Also found tenderness and love for a time with George. Celia stood up against indecency and it cost her, her life.

Author: Candace Parker


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