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Courtney D. Derry

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Renee Celeste

History 1301

18 November 2017

The Adversity of a Young Southern

            The history of
slavery and how it intertwined with the politics of slavery can be found in the
story of a young slave name Celia.  The
historical narrative Celia, A Slave was written in 1991 by the author Melton A.
McLaurin. In the year of 1850, a Missouri farmer named Robert Newsom buys a
young female slave.  She was only
fourteen years old when she was purchased. Right after the purchase of Celia,
the pattern of sexual abuse from Newsom begin. This true story gives the
details of cruelty and execution of a young black female. “Black female slaves
were essentially powerless in a slave society, unable to legally protect
themselves from physical assaults of either white or black males” (113).  McLaurin has written over twenty books. Some
of his most highly rated books include; The Knights of Labor in the South, The
North Carolina State Fair, Growing up White in the Segregated South for which
he received the Lillian Smith Award and Celia, A Slave.

Melton McLaurin wrote this book for readers to know and understand a portion of
the American past. He explained how the sexual politics of slavery presented an
exact example of the power relationships within the larger society. In his
writing, he demonstrates how slavery


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placed individuals, black
and white, in specific situations that forced them to make and act upon
personal decisions of a fundamentally moral nature.

            Master Robert Newsom abused and raped Celia several times
for many years. On the night of June 23rd, 1855, she’d had enough of
the abuse from Newman. Celia struck Newsome in the head with a stick and
disposed his body in the burning flames of the fireplace. Throughout the story,
great details are given about what led to the murder of Newsom. “Thus on the
eve of Celia’s trial, the reverberations of an increasingly violent struggle
over slavery in Kansas had disrupted the public tranquility in Missouri and
threatened with discord the state’s basic, political, legal and social
institutions” (78).  Celia’s trial came
at a time of tensions over issues of slavery.  “Handled badly, Celia’s trial could provide
additional grist for the propaganda mill of the northern abolitionist, become
yet another sensational tale of the brutal exploitation of a young, innocent,
helpless slave girl” (81). McLaurin relates Celia’s story in an intense way,
using her trial to show legal and political issues of the North and South in
the 1850’s.  Celia died on the gallows on
December 21st, 1855.

            Even though Celia was the main character in this book,
very little was known about her life before being sold to Robert Newsom. During
those times, records of slaves were rare. She was young and unable to write,
meaning she could not describe the details of experiences and feelings of her
own life.  “Although the brief and tragic
life of Celia, a slave, cannot provide a comprehensive theory with which to
evaluate the manner and degree to which the sexual exploitation of female
slaves influenced the routine operations of the institution of slavery, it can
and does clearly define the issues that must be analyzed if such theory is to be
developed” (137).


finishing this book, I was able to see another sad side of the United States
History. This non-fiction tragic story accentuated the adversities of enslaved,
young black females.  Even though I wish
I could have learned more about Celia’s life before being sold to Newsom, I was
able to understand more about female slavery and the justice system during the