Sam Aleckson

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Sam B. Aleckson (1852–1914) was an American slave, known for authoring Before the War and After the Union: An Autobiography.

Aleckson was born in Charleston, South Carolina. In his narrative, he states, "The place of my birth and the conditions under which I was born are matters over which, of course, I had no control. If I had, I should have altered the conditions, but I should not have changed the place; for it is a grand old city, and I have always felt proud of my citizenship."[1]

Aleckson enjoyed his life with his and his father’s owners, saying they were "of all slave holders, the very best."[2] Throughout the entire beginning of this story, there is not a single account of a beating, or of any slave being subjected to any truly disagreeable work. The children had almost all of their time free to play of time to play, early on with the neighbor’s white children, and later with other black children on the plantation that he moved to. This may be due in part to being a generally likeable child; in fact, one of the owners of the plantation bought him his own horse and saddle, and taught him to ride. But, more probably, was simple kindness on the part of his white master.

This master was Mr. Boyleston, who Aleckson held in high esteem for all of his kindness and magnanimity. At one point, Mr. Boyleston became angry with one of his slaves, believing him to have accidentally destroyed two expensive saddle blankets. The slave himself had a fit of temper, and knocked his master to the ground. Surprisingly, when the white man picked himself up from the ground, he was not angry, but simply asked for an explanation. When the slave delivered such, he let him be, simply asking that they not speak about this again.[3]

Aleckson recounts his arriving in Charleston one day to find that "men were going about the streets wearing blue cockades on the lapels of their coats."[4] This was his first realization that there was a war going on, though the effects (amazingly high prices for everything and the disappearance of many of the young men to go fight) had been felt for a while. However, somehow Aleckson escaped their books, and was not drafted to fight.

After The South lost the war, came the period of carpet bagging and reconstruction. Aleckson remembers going with his father, who was "one of a delegation of men selected for the purpose of calling on some gentlemen of Charleston." This was but one meeting of many that helped establish the "black code," a set of laws that ostensibly made life in South Carolina just as bad for negroes than it had been with slavery. His father was not a part of this legislation – that which he took part in was something of a town council, and the Black code was put in place by the entire state. He wondered why, at least in his time, we didn’t hear much about this, saying that perhaps "somebody is ashamed of it."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aleckson, pg 17
  2. ^ Aleckson, pg 19
  3. ^ Aleckson, pg 82-84
  4. ^ Aleckson, pg 86
  5. ^ Aleckson, pg 140