There were four classes of men who made their living on the blood of the negro. The first class is the master proper. He feels himself too honorable to drive the slave from two or three o’clock in the morning until nine or ten at night, therefore he sees the necessity of the second class, so he hires a poor white man as overseer, to do this dirty work.
The overseer had the authority, if the slave - man, woman or child - failed to do his task, to tie him up and whip him, but not to exceed one hundred and fifty lashes. If the crime demanded more than that he must get special authority from the master. The punishment, as will he shown further on, was very high for trivial offenses.
Sometimes the task was too heavy for the negro and he could not complete it, and would rise up in his manhood and would not be whipped. Then his only alternative was to run away, and this usually was the first thought in his mind. The third man raised blood hounds and trained them to hunt nothing but negroes. He made his living by catching runaway negroes, receiving the paltry sum of three dollars per head. The fourth man is the negro trader, who made a perpetual business of buying and selling negroes, as men do cattle in this country. He would buy up eight, ten or twenty, as the case might be, and locate them at some central point until he had from three to five hundred. Then he would have a long chain and handcuff them on either side of the chain and march them to Richmond, Virginia, which was the central slave market of the south, owned and conducted by the Lees and known as Lee’s negro trader’s pen, and when there they would auction them off to the highest bidder.
The prosperity of the poor whites, with but few exceptions, depended upon the amount of brutality that be showed towards the negro. His word was not valued as highly as that of the negro if it was not in favor with that of his employer. He lived in no better homes, and many of them not as good as the negro quarters. I need not say that they had but little or no aspirations, save that of raising blood hounds to catch the slaves with when they ran away. They were usually very illiterate, many of them had no education at all; they had no association only among themselves and the negroes. Their wives were glad to do the drudgery for that class of whites who would not own slaves. There were no free school systems, and they had not aspirations enough to pay for schooling their children. When they went before their employer they put their hats under their arms, as any negro would do, and usually were as afraid of him as the negro was of the overseer. They dressed as hideously as they possibly could in order to strike terror to the hearts of the negroes; they wore broad brimmed slouch hats, their pants down in their boots and a long blacksnake whip across their shoulders; they trained their voices to be as harsh as possible. Their very appearance would cause one to shiver. Their living was not as good as that of the average negro, for the slaves were industrious and would work by the light of the moon to earn a few pennies, while the overseer was lazy and seemed to be satisfied with most any kind of fare.