"WE LODGED IN LOG HUTS"
Josiah Henson spent thirty years on a plantation in Montgomery County,
Maryland before he escaped slavery and became a Methodist preacher,
abolitionist, lecturer, and founder of a cooperative colony of former slaves
in Canada. His memoirs, published in 1849, provided Harriet Beecher Stowe
with her model of Uncle Tom.
My earliest employments were, to carry buckets of water to the men at
work, and to hold a horse-
used for weeding between the rows of corn. As I grew older and taller, I was
entrusted with the care of master's saddle-
Then a hoe was put into my hands, and I was soon required to do the day's
work of a man; and it was not long before I could do it, at least as well as
my associates in misery.
A description of the everyday life of a slave on a southern plantation
illustrates the character and habits of the slave and the slaveholder, created
and perpetuated by their relative position. The principal food of those upon
my master's plantation consisted of corn-
and salt herrings; to which was added in summer a little buttermilk, and the
few vegetables which each might raise for himself and his family, on the
little piece of ground which was assigned to him for the purpose, called a
In ordinary times we had two regular meals in a day: breakfast at twelve
o'clock, after laboring from daylight, and supper when the work of the
remainder of the day was over. In harvest season we had three. Our dress was
for the children, nothing but a shirt; for the older ones a pair of pantaloons
or a gown in addition, according to the sex. Besides these, in the winter a
round jacket or overcoat, a wool-
once in two or three years, for the males, and a pair of coarse shoes once a
We lodged in log huts, and on the bare ground. Wooden floors were an
unknown luxury. In a single room were huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen
persons, men, women, and children. All ideas of refinement and decency were,
of course, out of the question. We had neither bedsteads, nor furniture of
any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down
in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.
Our favourite way of sleeping, however, was on a plank, our heads raised on an
old jacket and our feet toasting before the smouldering fire. The wind
whistled and the rain and snow blew in through the cracks, and the damp earth
soaked in the moisture till the floor was miry as a pig-
Such were our houses. In these wretched hovels were we penned at night, and
fed by day; here were the children born and the sick-
Source: "Uncle Tom's Story of His Life": An Autobiography of the Rev.
Josiah Henson (London, 1877).