Perspective Project

By Allison Roland

Name: Marjorie Johnson

Age: 19

Ethnicity: African American

Occupation: House slave on the Belle Meade Plantation

Residing State: Tennessee

Event: Passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850


Family Life: Marjorie was sold and taken away from her mother in Louisiana along with her older brother at the age of 8 years old. She has been working on the Belle Meade plantation every since. When she first arrived, her master sought her fit to be a servant in the house.

View of Event: Marjorie’s older brother David had escaped about a month earlier and she was worried that her brother would be caught and taken back to Tennessee. As a slave in the South, she thought it was unfair that a slave who was occupying a free state should not be caught and taken back to their master.

Perspective:

My name is Marjorie Johnson and I was born a slave. I was sold away with my brother David to a plantation owner in Tennessee at the age of eight. I spent my younger years working as a servant in the Big House. Working inside the home of my master has been greatly beneficial to my upbringing as I was forced away from my mother at a young age. I listened in on the conversations of my master and his associates and I learned a lot from doing so. Now that I am nineteen I have used the knowledge I have obtained to form my own opinions. By doing so I am lucky considering that many of the other slaves that I have grown up with have been beaten thin of their decency and independence. Knowing what I do, I am often urged to escape the little life I have here on the Belle Meade Plantation in Tennessee.

My dearest brother David has been gone now for a little over a month but I remember the day of his escape quite vividly. It was the eighth of August and the weather was somewhat mild for the summer time. I had spent a long day working in the house while David was outside picking cotton in the field and I had finally retired to my quarters to my quarters. I was just beginning to doze off when I heard someone. Just as I got up, David peeked his head into my room. He was dressed in his work clothes and a small satchel attached to his side. David told me that he was going to leave the plantation to I place called Ohio following the guidance of the North Star. I have hear our Master speak of the place Called Ohio. David explained to me that it was a free territory located inside of the United States. He asked me to leave with him but I just couldn’t do it. The idea of leaving had crossed my mind a millions times before but fear of being caught and beaten always struck me down. David left that night and I cried myself back to sleep purely from the thought of possibly never seeing him again. My biggest regret is not having the courage to escape with him. As for David, I have not heard from him since that night. As a slave, there is no way that word from him would get to me without endangering him. But there was a sliver of hope for him still left inside of me. I did however hear the Master speak of something called the Fugitive Slave Act that just passed very recently. The return of a slave known as Franklin to the plantation was proof of this new law. I was greatly worried for David’s well being knowing that there was a chance that he could be dragged back to Belle Meade. One can only hope that something so horrible would never happen.