Re: How free were American slaves?
I have read from slave narratives how the slaves defied the Slave Patrols on a regular basis. They were protected by laws in some areas not to be harmed by non-owners. One ex-slave told of the weekly Saturday night parties they were allowed to attend between the various group of slaves from nearby plantations. Their curfew ended at mid-night but they always broke the time limit. The Patrol would come to break it up and round up the slaves, but the party-going slaves made a game of making their fun last longer. The slaves spooked the Patrol horses with the embers from the bonfires and would run into the woods to hide or avoid the Patrol for a few more hours of fun. Life was hard for them but they dealt with it by making parts of it a game, and pulling one over the Whites was part of that game. Many knew that running away would get them whipped, but they they did it regularly, and they almost always returned on their own, knowing what would happen. Their reasons were many, but running away was used in most cases as a tool for improving their life, not to leave.