Read Celia, a Slave by Melton A. McLaurin Online

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Illuminating the moral dilemmas that lie at the heart of a slaveholding society, this book tells the story of a young slave who was sexually exploited by her master and ultimately executed for his murder.Celia was only fourteen years old when she was acquired by John Newsom, an aging widower and one of the most prosperous and respected citizens of Callaway County, MissouriIlluminating the moral dilemmas that lie at the heart of a slaveholding society, this book tells the story of a young slave who was sexually exploited by her master and ultimately executed for his murder.Celia was only fourteen years old when she was acquired by John Newsom, an aging widower and one of the most prosperous and respected citizens of Callaway County, Missouri. The pattern of sexual abuse that would mark their entire relationship began almost immediately. After purchasing Celia in a neighboring county, Newsom raped her on the journey back to his farm. He then established her in a small cabin near his house and visited her regularly (most likely with the knowledge of the son and two daughters who lived with him). Over the next five years, Celia bore Newsom two children; meanwhile, she became involved with a slave named George and resolved at his insistence to end the relationship with her master. When Newsom refused, Celia one night struck him fatally with a club and disposed of his body in her fireplace.Her act quickly discovered, Celia was brought to trial. She received a surprisingly vigorous defense from her court-appointed attorneys, who built their case on a state law allowing women the use of deadly force to defend their honor. Nevertheless, the court upheld the tenets of a white social order that wielded almost total control over the lives of slaves. Celia was found guilty and hanged.Melton A. McLaurin uses Celia's story to reveal the tensions that strained the fabric of antebellum southern society. Celia's case demonstrates how one master's abuse of power over a single slave forced whites to make moral decisions about the nature of slavery. McLaurin focuses sharply on the role of gender, exploring the degree to which female slaves were sexually exploited, the conditions that often prevented white women from stopping such abuse, and the inability of male slaves to defend slave women. Setting the case in the context of the 1850s slavery debates, he also probes the manner in which the legal system was used to justify slavery. By granting slaves certain statutory rights (which were usually rendered meaningless by the customary prerogatives of masters), southerners could argue that they observed moral restraint in the operations of their peculiar institution.An important addition to our understanding of the pre-Civil War era, Celia, A Slave is also an intensely compelling narrative of one woman pushed beyond the limits of her endurance by a system that denied her humanity at the most basic level....

Title : Celia, a Slave
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780820313528
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Celia, a Slave Reviews

  • Dusty
    2019-05-04 19:39

    I found both this book's premise and presentation fascinating. The author, Melton McLaurin, writes in his introduction that too often "history" is no more than the cobbled stories of men at the head of their society; while Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, etc., certainly merit study, shifting our focus toward less exceptional figures reveals a more accurate and relatable history. In the chapters that follow, he pieces together what may have been the life and story of the Missouri slave Celia, tried in 1855 for the murder of her master, Robert Newsom.What would it have been like to live in the United States in the decades just before the Civil War? How could I have reconciled myself to the institution of slavery? This rendition of Celia's crime and trial doesn't exhaustively answer either of these questions, but I think it is enough that it raises them. For McLaurin, living in a time and place where slavery is legally and socially acceptable means confronting moral conundrums on a daily basis. Your widowed father, who provides food and shelter for you and your three children, brings home a fourteen-year-old black child one afternoon, and although he says he has hired her as a cook, you know she rarely leaves his bedroom. You disapprove, but what action do you take? What different actions are available to you if you are a man or if you are a woman? What do you do a few months later, when the girl is noticeably pregnant? What do you do when she pleads with you to intervene on her behalf? Celia is certainly the central character in the book, but McLaurin wisely notes that her story illuminates an entire society in that it forces many people in many different parts of that society to face moral quandaries -- and to reveal their mettle in the hard decisions they must make.Of course, because Celia lived so long ago and was a slave, her life is not well documented. Unlike Harriet Jacobs and Sojourner Truth, Celia does not share her story in her own words. Rather, McLaurin pieces together the census and legal details the archive retains and speculates about the rest, even drawing into the conversation comparatively recent scholarship about, say, the psychic consequences of rape. The book's hybrid nature -- it's not quite a history, and it's not quite a novel -- apparently has divided Goodreads reviewers, many of whom find it either too scholarly or too unsubstantiated to take seriously. Personally, I appreciate the text's ambiguity. McLaurin writes in the tradition of Theodore Dresier (An American Tragedy) and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood): It is the writer's job to tell our society's stories, and telling stories has to do with more than slapping footnotes on every paragraph.

  • Eliza
    2019-04-24 00:41

    It sounds more interesting than it is. I had to read this for a history class in college. I did not enjoy it. I much preferred Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.

  • Agne
    2019-05-14 02:37

    I should've checked whether the author was a white dude before picking up this book. Wouldn't have bothered with it at all.The book is not about Celia, or women, or slaves. The book is about white dudes, how much property they had, what kind of d*ck measuring politics they were engaging in, who were their white dude fathers, etc. Celia, women, and slaves, are just side notes in this book. One hella pathetically abused excuse for a topic.After pages and pages of listing white dudes' property prices, numbers, genders, and ages of their slaves, numbers of cattle and main crops in the county, who got paid how much after the trial, in the final chapter ironically called "conclusions" the author somehow manages to finally talk about women, black and white, but still mostly the latter. Somehow manages to finally talk about slaves. And somehow manages to draw "conclusions" on George's behavior, even though he was barely mentioned and there does not seem to be much evidence behind some of the claims. By the way, what's up with "Celia, a slave"? Why repeat it? It was literally said in the title. Yes, she was a slave. Was her name literally "Celia, a slave"? Is that some sort of a messed up surname? Seriously?tldr: The book is like some poorly written high school essay. Celia is just there "to capture the reader's attention" in the first sentence/paragraph. Then it's a lot of padding because one has nothing relevant to say about the topic used "to capture the attention". The attention is captured, now we can list farm animals and how many legs, on average, they had. Once we run out of animals we can talk about random people's fathers and children and throw random half assed speculations about random people's random actions. Oh, and you have to finish with conclusions, so let's craft something half lucid and maybe even interesting, but definitely not conclusions of the crap already written. Yay!Sigh.

  • Kathryn
    2019-04-21 23:28

    An otherwise intriguing story alternately infused with unimaginably boring historical information. McLaurin takes absolutely no liberties in speculating anything--emotions, actions, words, nothing. One line went something like, "Although we can never know how Celia reacted to her rape, we can speculate that she was scared and upset." Really? You think so? A very historically accurate read with little emotional appeal.

  • Samer Masterson
    2019-04-26 01:55

    Living as a female slave was truly scary. It's hard to believe that people were actually treated this way only 150 years ago.

  • Valorie
    2019-04-29 01:39

    Rejecting the big man and big event approach many historians adopt when defining any era, Melton A. McLaurin uses the story of a young slave girl accused of murdering her white master in Celia, a Slave to illustrate what he calls the “major issues” of the pre-Civil War period. Melton admits from the start that Celia’s story, in fact, reveals little about slavery as a broad institution. Instead, what he presents is a case study in the “fundamental moral anxiety” produced by slavery, which he feels has been ignored by historians who focus on social or economic aspects of slavery, and therefore need not confront the more intimate moral issues blacks and whites faced daily when participating in an institution that dehumanized one group for the sake of the other. Melton’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that evidence and sources are scant, and discloses from the start that a lot of his story will be based on assumptions or inferences. Milton states that he will do this with the sensitivity of a storyteller, giving readers a flowing and engaging narrative that avoids what he calls the “dry and dull” history others fall into the trap of (vii, ix-x). That is not to say that McLaurin’s narrative is void any detail of politics and economy. Since the book itself, taking place in 1855 Missouri, centers on the continual rape of the slave Celia, then the murder of her master Robert Newsome, and finally Celia’s trial, McLaurin cannot avoid including political facets of slave life and slave status. To inform the reader, McLaurin scatters his book with interesting facts of slave legality such as that slaves were considered property, and as a result masters could not be guilty of rape since a man could hardly “trespass” on his own property (93). In addition, McLaurin very nicely frames the intimate events that make up the focus on the book within a larger national context. Featured very heavily throughout Celia is the tumultuous Nebraska-Kansas Act, which threatened the institution of slavery in bordering Missouri where Celia lived. The political climate of the time, especially one so important to Missouri, demonstrates to the reader just why the murder of a white man by a slave, no matter for what reason, was so intolerable. McLaurin then proceeds to describe ramifications of the Celia case more important to Missouri and the power dynamic of slavery than the more famous Dred Scott case (95). McLaurin also finds it essential to illuminate relevant details of the economics of slavery, more specifically the economic value of a slave woman’s reproductive ability, since a judgment in Celia’s favor would have called into question a white master’s sexual control over his slaves (100). It seems McLaurin, despite his intentions, was unable to avoid entirely big names and big events, or politics and economy, but the book is better and more deeply illustrated because he did not avoid including them. McLaurin’s greatest problem is the one he identified in the introduction: the availability of sources. While his sources include a variety of newspapers, census data records, and even Celia’s court case file, what he does not have is the personal documentation that would direct his formulation of some of the more personal thoughts and motivations. Since the intent is to provide an engaging narrative, McLaurin sets for himself the difficult task of providing the emotional depth that his sources cannot provide to him. McLaurin must address questions like: what was Celia thinking, how did she truly feel about her status as concubine, and what really happened the night of the murder? All McLaurin can do to answer these questions is make inferences based on the facts of Celia’s testimony and the cultural setting. In some cases, McLaurin is very successful in providing logical rationales out of minds he has no access to. For example, when the questioning began after the death of Celia’s master, the first person approached was Celia’s secret lover, George. McLaurin supposes that this was so because the inquisiting party already had some knowledge about the secret affair and suspected that George may have been involved. McLaurin also makes some unnecessary and weak conjecture. This comes about usually when he is trying to develop some of the deeper emotions involved in the crimes of rape and murder. For instance, McLaurin makes the statement that Celia’s adamant denial of any knowledge about her master’s disappearance points to a lack of remorse (36-38). There are also details missing that would flesh out the trial more. Powell, the man who interrogated Celia, willingly testified that he had to threaten Celia to get her to confess to her crime (84). Therefore, what laws were in place to protect people who confessed under duress? By extension, why were these laws not extended to someone like Celia? Was this too a matter of human rights much like Celia’s right to her own body? In the attempt to create an interesting and novel-like narrative, McLaurin includes many details that are ultimately unimportant to the story itself. An entire paragraph is dedicated to the many ways in which Robert Newsome may have possibly travelled from Virginia into Missouri where he settled his farm, and then later McLaurin discusses the vehicle in which Newsome perhaps travelled in to an adjourning county where he purchased Celia (2, 20). The narrative is also broken by McLaurin’s habit of providing multiple guesses and inferences for one instance or action. The story may have flowed better if not for the lengthy paragraphs dotted with multiple usages of words like “maybe” and “perhaps.” It is reasonable that McLaurin must do a great deal of guessing in order to fill in information that he does not have the sources for, but there are times in the book when it is excessive. McLaurin also approaches his featured players from the perspective that each person at some point had to confront their own private “fundamental moral anxiety” over slavery, whether it was Newsome’s daughters turning the other cheek in regards to Celia’s repeated rapes, or the jury that chose to ignore certain parts of Celia’s testimony in order to protect the reputation of a white slave master and friend, and indeed the institution itself. According to McLaurin, as each individual made their choices, each had to face within himself larger questions about the humanity possessed by slaves and the morality of slavery. McLaurin even points out specifically the moment in which some individuals reached this moment of contemplation (28). Certainly not every person involved had a moment of moral questioning, and if they did, not at the moment that McLaurin feels that they did. Nevertheless, McLaurin is correct that the “fundamental moral anxiety” was essential to the institution itself, though perhaps not to every individual, since slavery and slave supporters did have to repeatedly justify themselves to the increasingly louder voice of abolition. Stressed repeatedly in sections on the case backdrop, trial, and verdict that at hand were moral issues of Celia’s basic human rights, and that is why she is an appropriate case study in the morality of slavery. In this way, McLaurin keeps to the purpose of his book.

  • Gaia
    2019-05-20 20:39

    I'm very surprised by the low star ratings for this book because it was well-researched and very well-written. In sum: "A courtroom is a deadly place. People die in courtrooms, killed by words" pg. 140 Brainwashed by Franklin Vipperman The historical ramifications of what was done to Celia are profound and continue to impact contemporary legal and political decisions in the 21st century U.S.A.It is very important to note that the word "woman" was debated. This foreshadows the Dred Scott decision, in which those with African ancestry were denied American citizenship, and Plessy, which used blood quotas to segregate and discriminate based on the "one drop" policy. Celia, a fourteen-year-old slave was denied dignity and humanity. She was raped by her master, Robert Newsome, who I speculate may have also sexually assaulted his daughter Mary, a widow, whose son was born after her husband's death, and during a time when she appears to have lived with her father. Celia was not considered a woman in the legal sense, she was property: a slave. Even if she had been a woman, women lacked political power and other rights during that time in history. In self-defense, she murdered her master. She tried to appeal her conviction but she was denied and it resulted in her punishment: death. It was very important to read this book because I advocate on behalf of victims of sexual assault. It is shockingly, in some places within this country, considered an "occupational hazard". Sexual assault is morally indefensible and always will be. There has yet to be justice for Celia and other victims. I commend the author for writing what I thought was an unbiased and accurate historical account of a slave girl but it is always important to note that a slave could not consent or contract to anything done to them by their oppressor(s).

  • Tortla
    2019-04-27 21:45

    Some bits seemed unsubstantiated by hard evidence (like the fact that Celia was raped immediately upon being purchased by Newsom, which is referenced early on and only much later explained as a piece of evidence which arose in the trial). And there were moments in which the details presented (or rather, the lack of details)--such as the mysterious purchase of the five year old boy, the weirdness of a sick and pregnant woman burning a grown man's corpse in her cabin hearth overnight with her children sleeping there, and the implicit weirdness of her trial lawyers trying so hard to defend her on unprecedented moral grounds of a black woman having the right to protect herself from rape--seemed to be suggesting something ominous but refusing to actually speculate. I would've preferred speculation, really. Particularly given the novelistic, dramatic rendering of the grandson breathing in his father's ashes, it doesn't seem like McLaurin was opposed to editorializing.The coverblurb said the story would be "enough to give you the sort of anger that never goes away." I was more puzzled than angry, and felt vaguely like the text was trying to manipulate me by presenting a case about which it admitted to have few hard facts. The introduction and conclusion were quite good, though. And I was a bit angry with George. Newsom was too much of a monster to get angry at, and Celia was a strange enigma with whom I felt weird empathizing anyway...

  • JayCee
    2019-04-20 00:33

    I am writing this review quickly on my iPad before my class begins in less than five minutes, so I apologize in advance if I am not clear on many points or this review lacks any depth. Anyways, If you want a quick reference to how women (both black and white surprisingly), and slaves were oppressed by law then this really is a must read. The story focuses on a particular case with Celia who, in 1855, was indicted of killing her master (slaveholder) after being continuously raped by him. The people of Callaway County then faced a huge dilemma; do slaves, though under law were given some rights as humans, such as being able to defend themselves when being exploited by their master, truly have this right? If so, then this challenged the culture and institution of slavery and the power of slaveholders, too. An institution, as many may know was crucial to restrain. The author does a great job in explaining the events of the case, since there is hardly any records left to indicate the case in its entire nature. All in all, the book brings forth many great points about how slave women and white women were dependent on the master of the home.

  • Hana
    2019-05-09 00:49

    It's hard to write good history books, and Celia, A Slave was, in my opinion, a perfect example of what NOT to do when writing a book about historical events. It was dry, overly detailed, and didn't catch my attention at all. (except the bit where the author went into meticulous detail about the disposal of the body. It was so gruesome.) It's too bad, because Celia's story is actually quite interesting, and I would have been enthusiastic about reading this if it had been told in a more captivating way.

  • gnarlyhiker
    2019-05-21 03:41

    In all probability Celia did not kill her rapist. Probable evidence suggests the Robert’s daughters did the dirty deed. The probable and logical fact was because Celia was pregnant and sick, and the fact that she could not shovel ashes in a bucket and dispose of said ashes is probable evidence that she could not have clobbered the sicko and rolled its body into the fire pit. Fact is Celia was framed.Epilogue: Read online documents and skip all the probabilities. good luck

  • Danielle
    2019-05-05 23:27

    Heart breaking story. The author did a great job of describing the context and what is known about Celia and her case. I wish their would have been more evidence, but I am actually surprised that there was as much as there was. That all said, the writing style was repetitive and could have shortened the book by about 20 pages if it was more concise.

  • Andrea Borg
    2019-05-20 02:34

    This was more a very descriptive tale of what happened at the time. The story jumps from person's background to another, so sometimes you get lost because there are too many people in the story to keep up with. I found it extremely boring although the history and actual crime are fairly fascinating. If you like/enjoy history then this is definitely a book you should read.

  • Laura
    2019-04-24 19:54

    This book was mostly about the hard truth of slavery and Black slaves who had not rights even to resist the sexuality appetites of their masters. The book want to you to wonder how this man could have been a person of worth who on purchasing a young black female slave could not wait to get her home before raping her. Bull shit, he was the horse’s ass before I think but no one knows his history with other black women. The only way he became part of this story is because Celia, a 14 year old girl was purchased by him and his lust could not wait until he returned home before raping her which continued through the birth of two children (what happened to them – or perhaps stories) and now pregnant with another and wanting to get out of this forced relationship (the book said she mentioned it to his daughters – who had probably as much authority as Celia - none) no matter she didn’t have any power. The decision to live her life with one of the black slaves could have been the boiling point for her for many would say she was living in a cute little home close to the master’s home (for his convenience) and so should have welcomed his advances. No matter, she had said “no” and so when forced on this occasion took matters in her own hands and not only killed him but burned his body in her fire place having the remains was unknowingly disposed of by his young son. So now we have the trial which focused more on the power of the slave owners but though one act she was jailed and went to court – you knew she would be guilty but the history of the area needed to be made clear and little on the consciousness of the white males. On a side comment: I wonder if this isn’t why there is so much animosity between the two races and how one group felts were superior to another. This is an old book published in 1991 which I have read many times and wondered if history had been different would we have all the hatred that seem to be spreading in our country about the races. Somehow it seems to be forgotten that all of us came here some to enjoy life from whatever was ailing them and other than slaves even the indentured servants could free themselves in time. This book will definitely make you think what decision that is up to you.

  • Tyler
    2019-05-10 00:50

    This book was assigned as supplemental reading for a U.S. History class I took in college. It chronicles the case of a black women who was purchased by her master specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation. After a few years there was an incident when Celia was sick and pregnant and her master tried to force her to have sex with him. She killed her master trying to prevent him from forcing her to have sex with him. Her court case and eventual conviction and hanging are documented.The history is concise and well written. It makes a strong argument about the moral dilemmas of slavery.

  • Scott
    2019-04-30 22:43

    This slim volume is great on a number of fronts: first and foremost as history that both explains the events of the past, and tells a complete story. It is also a concise yet thorough introduction to the legal and moral realities of slavery in antebellum America, sexual politics, and how a jury trial works. Recommended, especially for the middle to high school set.

  • Jane
    2019-04-20 19:54

    An excellent non-fiction work that places the story of a female slave side-by-side with the tenuous political atmosphere just prior to the Civil War. If you'd rather avoid a text book to get historical information about this time period, this is a good choice.

  • Janet
    2019-04-30 20:53

    Celia, A Slave, A true story by Melton A. McLaurin details the events of a 19 year old slave girl who killed her master while defending herself against his sexual advances. This book was well written and well researched but was a very dry read. As quoted from the last chapter, Darlene Clark Hine observes that "one of the most remarked upon but least analyzed themes in Black women's history" is their "sexual vulnerability and powerlessness as victims of rape and domestic violence." Slave women resisted their masters in "all ways available to them." They could not depend upon others to defend them without risking their lives too. Celia's challenge to her master's power over her sexual integrity was personal, violent, extreme and unacceptable to a slave holding society. Celia's experience highlights the issue of slave women versus white women. In the antebellum south, slavery, class and race were an affront to a patriarcial power structure by women in both classes. Married white women were the property of their husbands with no legal rights. Female daughters were economically dependent upon thier fathers, wives were dependent upon husbands and slave females were dependent upon their masters. The law at this time was structured to protect his rights while keeping the behavior of his property (wives, slaves, etc) in compliance to his demands. During the trial, if Celia had been allowed to testify against her accusser, it would have meant that a slave had more rights over her life than a white women. Furthermore, the case of Celia documents the powerlessness of a male slave to protect a loved one, a male slave's smoldering resentment toward his loved one when she was forced into a sexual relationship with her master, and the male slave's natural act of self-preserviation brought about by his equally natural and understanable jealousy. Tensions between black men and women was inevitable product of slavery. In conclusion, slavery was an evil institution that kept everyone in bondage both morally and physically in order to keep control and power over one group by another.

  • Susan Robin
    2019-05-03 21:31

    This is a story pieced together from court records, correspondences, and contemporaneous newspaper articles about the trial and conviction of nineteen-year-old Celia, A Slave of the murder of her master, Robert Newsom in Missouri in 1855. Celia was purchased at the age of 14 and first raped by her white master on the way home from the place where she was purchased. In the following five years, Newsom continued to sexually abuse Celia and fathered two live children and possibly a third that she was carrying at the time she brutally murdered him and destroyed his body by burning him in her fireplace.The unusual thing about this story was that her court-appointed defense attorneys were not swayed by the current very proslavery politics and attitudes of his neighbors and they actually put together a very convincing defense showing that the murder had been in self defense, that Celia had not intended to murder her master, and that even as a slave black woman she was entitled to the right to defend herself against rape even by her owner, against whom she could not testify in court. The trial judge's rulings and jury instructions essentially voided any defense effort made by Celia's attoryneys--no verdict other than "guilty" was possible given the facts allowed into evidence and the jury instructions made by the redneck judge.The book describes the then current legal, cultural, social, and emotional issues of the time. The trial coincided with a ferocious battle over whether neighboring Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state. The author attempts to corrolate Celia's case with all other historical data of the time, but had an annoying habit of conjecturing what probably was going on. I would have rather that he saved a few words and just stated his conclusions outright. I suspect many of his conclusions were accurate, while others seemed a little far fetched to me. It was an interesting story, marred by overly an scholarly presentation, in my opinion... Can't really recommend it.

  • Leah Wolff
    2019-04-25 23:30

    Let's be real. I didn't read this whole thing. I read maybe 40 pages, and that's being generous. I love history. A lot. So much so that I am minoring in it. I would love to read historical books all the time, but only if they're written well. This had the potential to be such a great book--a slave girl gets raped repeatedly by her master for about five years before she falls in love with another slave on the farm. That slave tells Celia (the slave girl) that it's either the master or him. Well, how does a slave girl exactly stand up to her master? That's kind of the point of being a slave--you have to do your master's bidding or be killed. So one day, Celia tells the master (who is the father of her two children) to never come by her cabin again. Of course he doesn't listen. So that night, she kills him, puts his body in the fireplace, burns him all night long, and that's the end of the master. Sounds really awesome right? Well... you're right. It DOES sound awesome, especially considering all this happened in the first 40 pages because the rest of it is her trial because she confesses to the murder. So then there's this huge trial that I pretty much just skimmed over looking for quotes for my paper I had to write about this.However, this was basically one big monologue by the author. It wasn't even broken up by historical documents or anything. Just one continuous essay that was not as interesting as it could have been. And this was a true story--the author literally didn't have to put any creativity or imagination into it at all--just tell Celia's story. And it was very clear that he did not put anything into it. C for effort with finding all the documents and getting the story mostly straight, but F for the writing. Don't read this. And if you have to for school, chapters 1-2 are setting up the master and his family. Chapter 3 is the murder (and those few pages at the end are the most interesting in the book) skip to chapter 6 or so and pull some quotes from the trial and how it affected the community. You're welcome.

  • Chris Demer
    2019-05-08 23:28

    This is a powerful and meticulously researched history of the conflicts in Missouri and Kansas between the pro and anti-slavery factions leading up to the Civil War. It is made eminently readable by the use of a true and tragic story used as a scaffolding for the political and social upheavals of the time. A young slave girl (14 years old) is purchased by a prosperous, respected farmer and widower in his sixties. He rapes her on the day of her purchase and continues his sexual assaults regularly for 4 years during which she bears 2 of his children. Angered at his continuous demands and hoping to continue a relationship with another slave. She threatens to harm her owner. Ultimately, when he approaches her for sex, she kills him and disposes of the body. She is soon arrested and charged with murder. Although Celia's legal representation is sound, the timing couldn't have been worse and the courtroom battle threatens to undermine the very institution of slavery. In addition to Celia's story and the historical context, the author discusses the common assumption that slave women were considered property and could be used as the owners pleased. Commonly, that involved the expectation of sexual favors. Aware of these activities, wives of slave owners frequently took out their anger on the slave women, as the wives had little more power themselves in the antebellum south.Another social issue addressed was the utter inability of male slaves to protect their women and children from the predations of the masters. It is somewhat understandable that this aspect of pair bonding (protection) having been denied slaves for generations, could play a role in the social aspects of marital bonds and parenting, even down to the present day.This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in history, especially in the area of slavery.

  • Maryam
    2019-05-10 01:32

    A historical book of an event that is timely (or untimely, depending on how you look at things) fated to happen. In the midst of the early debate over African slaves in America, whether the practice should or should not be abandoned, heightened with the whites' fear of the uprising of their human properties. It was a clear self-defence, unintentional murder, but because of the widespread of prejudice at the time, selective persecution in favour of the white man (Robert Newsom's) family was not a surprise. It was the beginning of an end of an era. Like any end of an oppressive era, bloodshed and genocide are inevitable. Psychological warfare was won through blind faith of the gullible religious, many lives were sacrificed just to assert and hang on to their "right" to superior authority, which was then translated into physical action, with or without violence. But yet again, the human conscience prevails. How can humans stand so long exercising contradictory treatments to their own properties - whether to treat slaves as humans or objects. It just calls to our humanity when faced with two opposing values: pro or anti human slavery. Don't be too quick to say you'd obviously be on the anti-slavery side, because you were born in a different era with a different set of values altogether. It's good to read history to remind us of where we've been, so that we may avoid repeating devastating catastrophes on humanity.

  • Susan
    2019-04-27 19:39

    This is a historical account of a true event. The author is scrupulous about stating which facts can be supported by historical sources, and which can't. In fact, I got rather tired of reading "We can't know ..., but ... " I would probably have preferred the author just tell what could be told, and not try to fill in the gaps. But I put up with it because it's a short book, and it's a story that needs to be told. It's too easy to take for granted that a female slave didn't have even the basic right to defend herself against sexual exploitation by her owner. Because Celia stood up to it and was tried for what happened afterwards, her story speaks for many female slaves whose lives will never be remembered. I grew up in Boone County, Missouri, just next to Calloway County where these events took place. That made this rather interesting to read from the perspective of what I had (or, rather, hadn't) learned about the more vicious aspects of state's history. The author does a good job of putting what happened in its full context, spelling out what was going on in Missouri and neighboring states during the time of Celia's life and trial.

  • Jessica Journey
    2019-05-06 01:42

    "Celia, a Slave" tells the tragic true story of a 19-year-old pregnant slave girl who in 1855 faced trial for the murder of her abusive master. A worthy read for anyone studying the antebellum United States, "Celia" adds to the greater knowledge base with a personal, extensively-detailed, and relevant true story, a perfect representation of larger Missouri society in the mid-19th century. "The State of Missouri vs. Celia, a Slave," argues McLaurin, could've had a greater effect on the antebellum South than the Dred Scott case: socially, politically, legally, and otherwise. As for why it didn't...you'll have to read to find out. Warning: you may become angry.As for my personal reading experience with this, I will admit much of it was difficult to get through, though I'm glad I persevered. Reading books such as this can teach one much more, I think, than a textbook ever could. McLaurin has really done his research. I feel a much greater personal connection to this time period from "getting to know" one of its occupants. It was fairly local, too, with several references to Boone County, MO.

  • Justin Taylor
    2019-05-20 03:49

    Celia, a Slave was a great book. The story is about a 14 year old girl who was sold to a Missouri man by the name of Robert Newsom. Newson was a man of honest respect in Callaway County Missouri, and a family man who became a widower around the time he brought Celia. Celia became his concubine, or sex slave. Celia bared two of Newsom's children and lived in a cabin Robert built for her behind his house. She had to deal with the emotional stress of being raped and sexually assaulted in a time when her rights did not matter. National debate about slavery and its expansion dominated political debates and Celia's story impacted the expansion debate in Kansas. One night, Robert went out to Celia's cabin to force sexual favors but did not receive his desires. Celia denied his approach and struck her owner until he fell to the floor dead. Celia's trail and verdict changed how most southern white people viewed the morality of slavery. I definitely would recommend this book. If you are interested in how enslaved black women were treated this is a great book to read.

  • Stephanie Blake
    2019-05-19 22:34

    I acquired this book from my son. It was required reading in his college history class. A true story, it documents the shameful circumstances that surrounded many slave women and their male masters at a time in American history when slavery was widely and violently disputed. It was absolutely a no win situation for the young woman who was the subject of the book. The nation was in turmoil at this point in history - culturally, politically and religiously - and that turmoil ultimately led to the Civil War.The story itself was one that needed to be told. Other than that, however, I was impressed with how the author was able to frame an accurate representation of Celia, her master and others in the story largely from history and using the facts listed in an 1850 census surrounding all of the characters.Having just done an ancestry search for my own family, I was intrigued by the ability of the author to form his story from census records.

  • Sophie
    2019-04-23 00:36

    I picked up this book as Celia's story sounded interesting and I wanted to learn more about the everyday life of a slave. Although the text was short, McLaurin has given readers much more than a history about this one very unfortunate southern slave woman. Instead, he has also provided a great insight into the mechanisms of that most curious and shameful of institutions - slavery. Celia, A Slave not only delves into the relationships between black and white peoples of the mid-nineteenth century, but also informs the reader about the at times complex relations between black women and black men, black women and white men, black men and white men, black women and white women; and so on. As McLaurin's writing is straightforward and engaging, I would recommend anyone with a passing interest in history or race relations to read his book.

  • Caitie
    2019-05-19 01:46

    I feel like this is an important book to read just for the subject matter. Slavery was a terrible time in history and the way slaves were treated--especially female slaves--were treated terribly. Just reading Celia's story of how Robert Newsom treated her will make you horrified and feel for a young teenage girl getting attacked.However, my big problems with this book were all of the "we don't know about why this specific thing happened" (I'm paraphrasing here). It seems to me that when you write a history of something, you must write ALL THE FACTS....on the other hand, it does seem somewhat probable that due to the nature of the case--slave killing master--some of the key documents went missing on purpose. But it did get tiresome to have to read that the author didn't know certain things.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-17 21:52

    Assigned reading for an undergraduate American history course ("American History to 1877"). As a lifelong native of Missouri, I thought the fact that the case covered in this book took place in Missouri was especially interesting, as well as the fact that I read the book the same day as the lecture about the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, and other contemporary events this book mentions taking place in Kansas and near the Kansas-Missouri border at the same time as the trial of Celia in Callaway County in central Missouri in 1855.In the early 21st century, it's hard to imagine life in the Victorian era and in a world where slavery is legal and slave owners frequently abuse their slaves physically, sexually, and otherwise.

  • Meagan
    2019-04-28 19:44

    I actually enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would. It's a real story about Celia, a slave who kills her master after he repeatedly rapes her, and the trial that surrounds the crime. It was incredibly thought provoking, and raised important issues like the moral and inalienable rights of slaves as opposed to whites. If you want to read a book that makes you think, pick it up. It's a really quick read, but it raises questions that really make you think about our collective pasts as Americans. And if you're from outside the US, it gives insight into the system of American slavery that is hard to find.