|Frederick Douglass On How Slave Owners Used Food As A Weapon Of Control
||[Feb. 12th, 2017|10:34 pm]
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excerptThe nefarious aim of these revels was to equate dissipation with liberty. At the end of the holidays, sickened by the excessive alcohol, the hungover men felt "that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum." And so, Douglass wrote, "we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field – feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery."
"But if deprivation was one form of control, a far more insidious and malicious one was the annual Christmas holidays, where gluttony and binge drinking was almost mandatory. During those six days, the enslaved could do what they chose, and while a few spent time with distant family or hunting or working on their homes, most were happy to engage in playing sports, "fiddling, dancing, and drinking whiskey; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. ... It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas." To encourage whiskey benders, the "masters" took bets to see who could drink the most whiskey, thus "getting whole multitudes to drink to excess."
Douglass sounds even angrier at these obligatory orgies – he calls them "part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery" – than at other, more direct forms of cruelty."