Field slaves in the United States

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Field slaves were slaves who labored in the plantation fields. They commonly were used to plant, tend, and harvest cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco.

Types of Slaves[edit]

Historically, slaves were utilized in different types of labor, including skilled trade and soldiers. In the Americas, most slaves worked in agriculture (field slaves), or in domestic service (house slaves), though some may have worked in both capacities.[citation needed]


The tasks of each slave differed. House slaves would take care of the housework (i.e. do the cooking, cleaning, tend to the master's children) and field slaves would tend to the plantation fields. The field slaves were expected to work in the fields for anywhere between ten to eighteen hours a day, usually from sunrise to sundown, while being monitored by an overseer. The overseer was there to make sure that slaves did not slow down or cease their field work until the day was over. The overseer would administer punishment to the slaves (usually by flagellation) whenever he saw fit.[citation needed]


The clothing of field slaves and house slaves differed. House slaves were dressed better as they had the opportunity to receive second-hand clothing from their master's family members.[1] Field slaves, however, were given one outfit annually. During the winter time, field slaves were given additional clothing, or material to make additional clothing, in order to keep them warmer.[1]


In general, slave children received little to no clothing until they reached the age of puberty,[2] after which time they were given gender-appropriate clothing.


Women were given long dresses to wear in the summer. During the winter they made themselves a shawl and pantalettes.[3] Women often wore turbans on the heads, covering their hair.


Men were given pants to wear during the summer, while in the winter they were also given long coats to wear.[3]


Field slaves generally shared a one room cabin with their family, no matter the size of the family.[citation needed][clarification needed]


Field slaves were given weekly rations of food by their master, which included some meat, corn meal and flour. If permitted, the slaves could have a garden to grow themselves fresh vegetables.[1] Otherwise they would make a meal from their rations and anything else they could find.[1] They had breakfast at daybreak, before going to work in the fields and had dinner at the end of the workday. This happened every day of when they were on the fields or when they were under the rule of their masters.


  1. ^ a b c d "Slavery and the Making of America . The Slave Experience: Living". PBS. Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  2. ^ "Slavery and the Making of America . The Slave Experience: Men, Women & Gender". PBS. Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  3. ^ a b "Slavery and the Making of America . The Slave Experience: Men, Women & Gender". PBS. Retrieved 2013-12-15.