Striving for recognition as fully human, capable beings outside one’s natural environment and community meant many different things to the thousands of people brought to or born in the Lowcountry. From choosing death during the voyage from African ports of departure, to rising up against one’s captors, to seeking refuge in remote hiding places away from the mainland to delving deeply into private comfort spaces…enslaved people sought ways to retain their humanity, first and foremost.
Many such efforts went unnoticed by their captors, others were rebuked and punished. Rarely discussed forms of resistance to slavery and “passive actions” not recorded or even recognized by those in control have long been misread as suggesting that enslaved people were “happy” or “content” in their bondage. Work stoppages, breaking of tools, poisoning of animals, organized rebellions and running away are some of the means by which people of African descent sought control over their bodies and their lives. Without benefit of political power, Africans and their descendants faced their captors in subtle and overt ways.