Why am I a slave at 13?

Wrenn School, Wellingborough, pupil Jessica Parnell writes about slavery.

Welcome, this is my life story on how I have coped with being born as a slave along with my family.

My name is Camilla. I am only 13 years of age and I have to lift tons of wood and materials and I have to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I never get a break. I am a normal African-American girl. This is where it all started…..

Chapter 1 - Who is my family?

It was 1619 when this whole slavery began and it was ruled by the British...

Actually I don’t know much about my family. My dad, Anthony, died from being killed by the boss of us for asking to have a drink.

My mum, Caroline, was one of the people in charge because someone died so she got chosen to step up or else she will die.

But while she was helping someone lead she kept on trying to free me and my older brother, Edward, so she got taken down to be killed when they all found out.

But me and Edward are still alive, living it out together. He looks after me because he is nearly 19 but that doesn’t bother us, he said that we will be free one day because that is my only dream, to be free with my brother.

I wish I knew my grandparents but they died when I was a baby of natural causes.

My parents say they were caring and loving people and they were born slaves and also died as slaves.

My brother knew who they were because he was around six years old when they died.

Edward always tells me stories about them and reassures me what they were like.

I didn’t know my parents that well either because I was two when my dad died and three when my mum died.

I thought it wasn’t fair being slaves because we are all people and should be treated the same.

So I sometimes wonder to myself if I was there because of my parents.

Edward keeps telling me it wasn’t our parents’ fault.

Every time I walk past Kathy, another slave, she tells me if my mum didn’t try to save us then we probably wouldn’t be here and that they are bad people.

When I tell my brother this he reassures me and helps me up again.

Chapter 2 - Food and drink

I always starve because I never get any food to eat or water to drink.

If I am really lucky, and I mean really lucky like the luckiest person there today, then I get one maybe two pieces of food a day and a bottle of water to keep me going as strong and fast as I can.

I don’t get to have a break, I am not allowed to just sit down and rest my legs.

If I am caught sitting down then I get whipped on the back of my hand and then on the back for 10 whole minutes while I am working.

If I had any money I would go and pay people to give and me and Edward a little bit of food or water so we can carry on working as hard as we can.

I keep saying to myself one day when I get bit of bread or a bottle of water I will share it with my brother so we can live on and stop slavery, but that never happen.

Chapter 3 - Illness and treatment

All I can say is that there is not much treatment. People like us are people who don’t use medicine.

While we were on ships or the plantation we could catch many diseases like flux (a flu), gangrene, extreme seasickness, even colds.

While we were on the ship people used to jump off the sides to get away because they were not immune so even the slightest cold got to them.

When the slaves all found out what diseases you could catch then they were worried so much they deliberately got themselves killed.

One time my brother got a cold. I didn’t know what to do so I told him I would work harder and if I got any food or drink I would give it to him.

Neither of us knew what to do so we had to improvise. We all worried so much when family and friends got ill because we were not allowed and herbs or treatment to help them get better.

Chapter 4 - Punishment

There are loads of punishments but I think the whip is worst.

You get the whip because one of the slaves has run away. When the owner of the slave finds out he gets another slave and makes him whip the slave who ran away until the owner finds out why he ran away.

Also they have to say their name when they are asked. Not their real name, the name they got given as a slave.

My brother got punished for the littlest thing, sweeping the floor the wrong way.

If you were punished you would either get a whipping (50 to 100 lashes), branding, ducking under water, getting put in stocks, slapping, kicking, tarring and feathering and tying up.

If you ran away dogs would be worst and then the whip. Both of these very painful.

If you got far enough when you ran away you would have an ear cut off, or your hand.

The worst punishment happened to my friend. She was living in the same part as me and she got sold to somewhere new away from here family.

She will never be able to see her family again or speak to them. She will be taught that she never had a family.

Chapter 5 – The heat

It is sweating. You always have to work under all conditions and you never get a water break.

I find it too hot and wish it would rain a bit more.

We normally got the blame for the weather just to find an excuse to not work.

Most of us covered our head or faces to stop inhaling the heat.

During periods of good weather, we slaves would be brought up on the deck in the morning.

At this time the men and my brother would be shackled together with iron chains, while the women, children and me would be allowed to roam about on the deck.

At about 9am we were given their first meal of the day whether we liked the food or not, we did not get a choice on what to eat.

In the late afternoon us slaves have a second and only other meal of the day.

Sometimes it was the same as their first. If we didn’t eat it then we would go without so practically everyone ate it, no matter what it was.

Chapter 6 – Court and laws

In 1772 slave James Somerset escaped from his owner in London.

He was caught, but with the help of campaigner Granville Sharp the case went to court and he was freed.

Many people thought this meant slavery was outlawed in Britain. Obviously they were completely wrong.

16 years on, a law was introduced telling people they were only allowed to have a certain amount of slaves on a ship.

While this law is going through the British government agrees in principal that the slave trade should end.

In 1807 the slave trade was outlawed. Anyone found transporting a slave was fined £100 for every slave.

The ending

I was free but my brother got killed while he was working. He ran away and got whipped and he refused to give in.

The last words he said to me were that he loved me and that I would find a guy some day and that he is doing this to give me a chance.

I was free at the age of 17, and by then my whole family was dead.