Sexual Assault and Abuse
During slavery, white male plantation owners, their sons, brothers and other male acquaintances raped Black women without fear of punishment. Their reasons ranged from lascivious desire to acts of punishment. Black men were also sexually abused by slaveholders, and, sometimes, their wives.
Instruments of Torture
, cotton screws
, metal and wood neck collars
with protruding spikes, and metal masks
were all placed on enslaved people, sometimes for months at a time, to remind them of defying the slave master’s wishes.
Pouring Salt into the Wound (Literally)
After enslaved men and women were whipped or beaten, overseers might order their wounds be burst and rubbed with turpentine and red pepper. One overseer reportedly took a brick, ground it into a powder, mixed it with lard and rubbed it all over an enslaved Black person.
The whip was the most common instrument used against enslaved Black people. There were even businesses that were established to perform whipping services.
Shackles were used to bind an enslaved African’s wrists and ankles. Made of heavy iron, these shackles were not only used to restrict movement, but they were also a way for plantation owners to humiliate defiant Blacks who tried to escape and to physically and psychologically control their captives.
Enslaved Blacks were regularly hanged, at the will of their master, most often for the “official” reason of revolt. However, it could have been for any cause whatsoever and merely “labeled” as such.
Enslaved Africans were often burned at the stakes for participating or being suspected of participating in an uprising.
During slavery, Black men would often be killed if they were accused of rape. However, when accused of attempted rape, they were often punished with castration.
Blacks who resisted in anyway were subjected to torture by having hands, arms and legs cut off, or other body parts disfigured.
Branding of enslaved men and women for identification was common during the colonial era. However, by the 19th century, it was used primarily as punishment.