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The Branding of African American Slaves

The Branding of African American Slaves We are in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As the months go by, we recall the historic battles, such as Shiloh and Antietam, during which the fate of our nation hung in the balance. It is also important to remember that at the root of this conflict was the issue of slavery, in which the color of one's skin determined who was slave and who was master. There were many abuses inherent in slavery, and this article discusses one of them: branding. The branding of African American slaves was widespread and was performed either for identification purposes or as a punishment.1 The bodily areas branded varied in location, such as the back, shoulder, or abdomen, with the face being a favorite site for punishment. The procedure for branding was described by Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an important public figure in the abolitionist movement. In an address delivered in England on September 1, 1846, Douglass said, “The process of branding was this —A person was tied to a post, and his back, or such other part as was to be branded, laid bare; the iron was then delivered red hot (sensation), and applied to the quivering flesh, imprinting upon it the name of the monster who claimed the slave. ”2 Readers interested in a pictorial representation of branding can view a lithograph produced by Nathaniel Currier in 1845 entitled “Branding Slaves on the Coast of Africa Previous to Embarkation. ” The print shows a kneeling, frightened African prisoner being branded on the back by a hot iron held by a slaver. The following case report concerns Betty, a slave owned by Micajah Ricks of Nash County, North Carolina. In 1838, for an infraction, she was branded with the letter “M ” on the left side of her face.3 Several days later, Betty ran away with her 2 children, aged 5 and 7 years. An advertisement by Ricks appeared in the North Carolina Standard, July 18, 1838, offering a $20 reward for Betty's capture and return. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and 2 years later, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, abolishing slavery and ending abuses such as branding. Later in 1863, President Lincoln stood at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, one of the great battlefields of the Civil War. He began his famous Gettysburg Address by reminding Americans of the fundamental principles on which our country was founded: that we are a “nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. ” Today, on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, let us rededicate ourselves to making these noble ideals a reality for every American and for all mankind. Back to top Article Information Contact Dr Hoenig at 601 N Flamingo Rd, Ste 201, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028 (gooddocljh@yahoo.com). References 1. Christian CM, Bennett SJ. Black Saga: The African American Experience. Washington, DC: Counterpoint; 1999:102-103 2. Blassingame JW, ed. The Frederick Douglass Papers. Vol 1. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 1979:377-378 3. Parker F. Runaway slaves in the United States. In: Palmer CA, ed. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. Vol 5. 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA; 2006:1985-1991 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Archives of Dermatology American Medical Association

The Branding of African American Slaves

Archives of Dermatology , Volume 148 (2) – Feb 1, 2012

The Branding of African American Slaves

Abstract

We are in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As the months go by, we recall the historic battles, such as Shiloh and Antietam, during which the fate of our nation hung in the balance. It is also important to remember that at the root of this conflict was the issue of slavery, in which the color of one's skin determined who was slave and who was master. There were many abuses inherent in slavery, and this article discusses one of them: branding. The...
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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
0003-987X
eISSN
1538-3652
DOI
10.1001/archdermatol.2011.2683
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

We are in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As the months go by, we recall the historic battles, such as Shiloh and Antietam, during which the fate of our nation hung in the balance. It is also important to remember that at the root of this conflict was the issue of slavery, in which the color of one's skin determined who was slave and who was master. There were many abuses inherent in slavery, and this article discusses one of them: branding. The branding of African American slaves was widespread and was performed either for identification purposes or as a punishment.1 The bodily areas branded varied in location, such as the back, shoulder, or abdomen, with the face being a favorite site for punishment. The procedure for branding was described by Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an important public figure in the abolitionist movement. In an address delivered in England on September 1, 1846, Douglass said, “The process of branding was this —A person was tied to a post, and his back, or such other part as was to be branded, laid bare; the iron was then delivered red hot (sensation), and applied to the quivering flesh, imprinting upon it the name of the monster who claimed the slave. ”2 Readers interested in a pictorial representation of branding can view a lithograph produced by Nathaniel Currier in 1845 entitled “Branding Slaves on the Coast of Africa Previous to Embarkation. ” The print shows a kneeling, frightened African prisoner being branded on the back by a hot iron held by a slaver. The following case report concerns Betty, a slave owned by Micajah Ricks of Nash County, North Carolina. In 1838, for an infraction, she was branded with the letter “M ” on the left side of her face.3 Several days later, Betty ran away with her 2 children, aged 5 and 7 years. An advertisement by Ricks appeared in the North Carolina Standard, July 18, 1838, offering a $20 reward for Betty's capture and return. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and 2 years later, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, abolishing slavery and ending abuses such as branding. Later in 1863, President Lincoln stood at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, one of the great battlefields of the Civil War. He began his famous Gettysburg Address by reminding Americans of the fundamental principles on which our country was founded: that we are a “nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. ” Today, on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, let us rededicate ourselves to making these noble ideals a reality for every American and for all mankind. Back to top Article Information Contact Dr Hoenig at 601 N Flamingo Rd, Ste 201, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028 (gooddocljh@yahoo.com). References 1. Christian CM, Bennett SJ. Black Saga: The African American Experience. Washington, DC: Counterpoint; 1999:102-103 2. Blassingame JW, ed. The Frederick Douglass Papers. Vol 1. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 1979:377-378 3. Parker F. Runaway slaves in the United States. In: Palmer CA, ed. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. Vol 5. 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA; 2006:1985-1991

Journal

Archives of DermatologyAmerican Medical Association

Published: Feb 1, 2012

Keywords: african american

References