|Tag(s):||African-Americans, Migration/Transportation, Race-Relations, Slavery|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
|Rating:||1 (1 votes)|
Robert Anderson was just a young boy when he became a house servant in a Liberty County plantation home. He cleaned the knives, swept the floors, and later tended to the sheep, cows, and hogs. Robert's mistress thought a great deal of him and kept him around the house as much as possible. In Robert's words his mistress felt that nothing went right if I [Anderson] did not have something to do with it. His mistress even allowed him to be taught how to read until she found out this was against the law. His place in the household was one of a very responsible and dependable slave, and this influenced him later in life. When Robert was close twenty years old, his master, Dr. Anderson, decided to move to Glynn County, Georgia. Robert decided to go with him even thought it was hard for him to leave his home. However, it did not seem that he was forced to leave, because he stated in his own autobiography that he went with Dr. Anderson because the doctor was his master and they thought a great deal of one another. An episode that shed light on at least one aspect of their relationship was when they were traveling across the Ocmulgee River. The ferryman struck Dr. Anderson's horse and they argued for a bit and then left the ferry. When they got off, Dr. Anderson asked Robert what he would have done if the ferryman had struck him [Dr. Anderson], instead of his horse. Robert replied vigorously that he would have knocked the ferryman into the water. His master replied thankfully, and pledged that since they were in a strange county now he would make sure to also defend Robert whenever necessary. He firmly stated he would not let anybody take advantage of Robert. Thus on the banks of the river, they pledged themselves to one another and remained so until he [Dr. Anderson] departed this life.
It may seem surprising that a slave and his master seemed truly fond of one another, when in many cases slavery was brutal and did not seem to have a warm, emotional side to it. However, it is important to remember that many masters told themselves it was their duty to take care of their slaves and to be fatherly caretakers. Also, it is important to remember that Robert, and other house slaves, were in close proximity to their masters for most of the day, if not night. This obviously led to some sort of bond, though unequal, to their master and mistress. White women and children across the South often became very attached to their household slaves- people who cleaned for them, nursed them, and raised them. Field slaves often would not have enjoyed this privileged or warmer relationship with their masters. Even though the slave-master relationship was in no way equal, and whites would not like to admit it: both masters and slaves (especially house slaves or slaves on smaller plantations) depended on one another, and were more intimate than one would guess. Both Dr. Anderson and Robert probably felt safer together with someone they had known for decades, since they were in a strange new county. Of course their relationship was imbalanced, as all master-slave relationships were, but it was obvious in many cases that slaves were a form of comfort to their masters. Many slaveholders felt that their slaves were their own people and sometimes had a degree of sentimental feelings towards them. Many whites felt that they really knew what was best for their slaves. Slave-owners often defined themselves by their slaves and whether this brought about a semi-good or bad relationship, it brought out a relationship nonetheless. No matter how unequal the relationship was and no matter how rare it was for slaves and masters to have this affection for one another, his fondness for his master and his master's apparent fondness for Robert made a lasting impression on the future Reverend Robert Anderson for the rest of his life. He was not the only slave in the South who had a more positive relationship with his master than many people would have believed was possible, but it is still important to remember the brutal aspects of slavery, and that even these positive relationships were still not equal or just.