Doing As They Can: Slave Life in the American South

The harsh realities of slavery on a cotton plantation in the antebellum period are brought to life in this documentary, told from the point of view of an escaped slave. On the plantation, time and work are dictated by the master. Still, slaves strive to make life in the quarters independent of his control. The narrator escapes to the North, only to discover that her former master’s power extends even to New York City because of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. (Length: 30 minutes)

Chapter selection

  1. Defenses of Slavery (0:18)
  2. From Dawn to Dusk (4:15)
  3. Life in the Quarters (7:40)
  4. Our Time (10:02)
  5. Everyday Resistance (12:56)
  6. The Auction Block (16:52)
  7. Escape (20:05)
  8. Fugitive Slaves (23:18)

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Teaching Materials

Viewer’s Guide (.pdf)

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