In 1861 an educated Georgia slave named Harrison Berry wrote a book explaining why he and his fellow slaves preferred their life in the South to the “so-called” freedom in the North. It was a scathing critique of the hypocrisy of Northern abolitionism, and explains why the vast majority of slaves remained loyal to the South.
The following excerpt examines from this fascinating primary source. Here is presented a paragraph explaining why there was a close bond between master and slave in spite of the “peculiar institution.” Here he lambasts the “radicals” for their attempts to destroy that bond and as a result made things worse for the slave…
“You must recollect, fanatical sirs, that the Slave children and their young masters and mistresses, are all raised up together. They suck together, play together, go a hunting together, go a fishing together, go in washing together, and, in a great many instances, eat together in the cotton-patch, sing, jump, wrestle, box, fight boy fights, and dance together; and every other kind of amusement that is calculated to bolt their hearts together when grown up. You had better mind how you come here and jump aboard of our masters; for I tell you, though we sometimes fight among ourselves, if another man jumps on either, we both pitch into him. You must recollect that we are not oppressed here like your nominally free there. We can go into our masters’ houses and get plenty of good things to eat; and we can shake hands with the big-bugs of the country, and walk side-by-side with Congress members on the side-walks, and stand and converse with gentlemen of the highest rank, for hours at a time. So, in short, we can do anything, with the exceptions of those privileges wrested from us in consequence of your diabolical, infernal, Black Republican, Abolition, fanatical agitation.”
This paragraph alone challenges all our pre-conceived notions of race relations in the antebellum South. Mr. Berry certainly exposes the Hollywood myth about slavery used to justify a war so important to our national identity. The words are quite shocking to our modern indoctrinated sensibilities!
~ Biography ~
Harrison Berry, the author of these pages, was born in Jones county, Georgia, November, 1816, and is now a little more than forty-four years old. He was born a Slave, and became the property of Mr. David Berry, but was given to his daughter as a part of her marriage portion. This daughter married Mr. S. W. Price, who, in turn, became the owner of Harrison, and so remains at the present time. Harrison removed, with his old master, David Berry, to Butts county, Georgia, when about ten years old, and was placed in the Law Office of John V. Berry, a son of the former. His business was to wait upon his young master, run on errands, go to the Post Office, and to perform other like service. These employments were such as to leave a good deal of time at his own disposal, which he was induced to improve in learning to read and write.
When he became older and stronger, he was put to work on the farm, but continued to improve his mind by reading such books as were furnished him by the younger members of the Berry family; so that by the time he had grown to man’s estate, he had made considerable proficiency in History, and had picked up a fair share of general information.
At the present time he is engaged in the business of Boot-making. He was induced to write upon the subject of Slavery from a firm conviction that Abolitionist agitators are the worst enemies of the Slave, and from the settled opinion that Slavery is according to the Divine Law. He believes, furthermore, that Southern Slaves are in a much better condition than if they had remained in their native land, and this opinion has been formed after a fair and impartial examination of the subject in the light of history, philosophy and religion. While the work has imperfections, (and what human work has not?) still the reader will find much to interest him in these pages, and I would bespeak for the author a favorable reception of his little offering to the cause of Truth and Justice.
H. C. Hornady
February 26, 1860