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It was here too, that adults whispered and cried about their impending sale by owners.Enslaved people lived with the perpetual possibility of separation through the sale of one or more family members.Others lived in near-nuclear families in which the father had a different owner than the mother and children.Both slaves and slaveowners referred to these relationships between men and women as “abroad marriages.” A father might live several miles away on a distant plantation and walk, usually on Wednesday nights and Saturday evenings to see his family as his obligation to provide labor for an owner took precedence over his personal needs.Slaveowners’ wealth lay largely in the people they owned, therefore, they frequently sold and or purchased people as finances warranted. An enslaved person could be sold as part of an estate when his owner died, or because the owner needed to liquidate assets to pay off debts, or because the owner thought the enslaved person was a troublemaker.A father might be sold away by his owner while the mother and children remained behind, or the mother and children might be sold.In the space of the slave quarters, parents passed on lessons of loyalty; messages about how to treat people; and stories of family genealogy.
In these cases each family member belonged to the same owner.
This use of unpaid labor to produce wealth lay at the heart of slavery in America.
Enslaved people usually worked from early in the morning until late at night.
Enslaved people could not legally marry in any American colony or state.
Colonial and state laws considered them property and commodities, not legal persons who could enter into contracts, and marriage was, and is, very much a legal contract.