"FIXED BELLS AND HORNS ON MY HEAD"
John Brown, who was born into slavery in Southampton County, Virginia, and
later toiled in Georgia and Louisiana, describes the methods of discipline
employed by one of his owners.
To prevent my running any more, Stevens fixed bells and horns on my head.
This is not by any means an uncommon punishment. I have seen many slaves
wearing them. A circle of iron, having a hinge behind, with a staple and
padlock before, which hang under the chin, is fastened round the neck.
Another circle of iron fits quite close round the crown of the head. The two
are held together in this position by three rods of iron, which are fixed in
each circle. These rods, or horns, stick out three feet above the head, and
have a bell attached to each. The bells and horns do not weigh less than
twelve to fourteen pounds. When Stevens had fixed this ornament on my head,
he turned me loose, and told me I might run off now if I liked.
I wore the bells and horNs, day and night, for three months, and I do not
think any description I could give of my sufferings during this time would
convey anything approaching to a faint idea of them. Let alone that their
weight made my head and neck ache dreadfully, especially when I stooped to my
work. At night I could not lie down to rest, because the horns prevented my
stretching myself, or even curling myself up; so I was obliged to sleep
crouching. Of course it was impossible for me to attempt to remove them, or
to get away, though I still held to my resolution to make another venture as
soon as I could see my way of doing it.
Source: John Brown, Slave Life in Georgia: A Narrative of the
Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Now in
England (London, 1855).