Celia, the slave
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Celia the Slave Character Analysis
The book Celia A Slave by Melton McLaurin provides an insight of the plight of slaves in America in the helm of slavery and civil revolution. Through a clear account of events, McLaurin explains how females slaves were mistreated by their masters. Celia a nineteen-year-old female slave is continually sexually molested by his master ever since she was purchased from another slave owner in the adjoining county of Audrain. After several years of sexual assault, Celia murdered her master and was charged and executed. Although, murder is punishable by death or life sentence, the events surrounding the death of Celia’s master Robert Newsom does not warrant execution. It is evident that Celia never intended to kill Newsome but only wanted to protect herself from the sexual assault (McLaurin, Pg. 43). Therefore, Judge Hall’s decision of executing Celia was not morally upright. In fact, the sentencing could encourage other masters who were also mistreating their slaves to continue doing so as they could have a feeling of support from the court.
Overview of the events and Characters
Robert Newsom purchased Celia when she was nineteen years old. The first instance of rape came on their trip home after the purchase. McLaurin speculates that Celia was bought as a substitute concubine for his wife who had passed away. McLaurin suggests that Newsom required more than a hostess but rather a sexual partner (McLaurin, Pg. 18). It was difficult for Newsome to make Celia as a sex partner only and hence he delegated her the role of a cook. Celia continued to work in Newsome’s house under the strict instructions of his daughters, Virginia, and Mary. Indeed, it is ethically wrong for Newsome’s young daughters to command Celia.
Newsome continued to visit Celia at night in her cabin that was close to his house compared to other slave’s houses. Newsome continued to molest Celia sexually until she proceeds to have two children. As a result, Celia was entitled to some favors such as her cabin close to the family home. Typically, slaves resided in small quarters with little privacy and hence this was a privilege to Celia. However, Newsome’s favors were ill-motivated. Practically, it is morally upright to give favor to junior workers without expecting sexual favors. For Newsome, he gave Celia little favors in exchange for his regular nighttime visits to have sex with her. Celia’s life involved regular sexual exploitation by her master (McLaurin, Pg. 22).
Later on, a relationship developed between Celia and a fellow male slave called George who was also owned by Newsome. When Celia got pregnant, it was difficult to determine the father of the kid. George advised Celia to abandon the relationship with her master not knowing that she had less physical control over her life. George made the right call, but the existing situation did not allow Celia to do the same. It is ethically right for a man to intervene in her wife or girlfriend’s affairs and even protect her from her sexual abuse, but it was not possible for George to do so for a man who owned them both (McLaurin, Pg. 25).
On the night of June 23, 1855, Celia committed a crime that changed the plight of slaves and forced the white populace who were the majority of slave owners in Missouri to wrestle with precincts of slavery. Celia murdered Newsome after trying several solutions that could not work out. The steps that Celia took was a true proof that she never intended to murder Newsome and hence should have been given the benefit of doubt. It was inhuman of Judge Hall to fail to consider Celia’s story before giving the execution sentence.
Celia consulted Virginia and Mary to intervene but the sexual demands from Newsome continued (McLaurin, Pg. 28). Celia even tried to use her pregnancy as an excuse to stop Newsome but all in vain. Instead, Newsome claimed that sexual relationship with Celia was privilege since she was her master (McLaurin, Pg. 29). On the night of June 23, Newsome went to Celia’s cabin but she hit him with a branch of a tree which she had secured earlier on. The second fatal blow led to Newsome’s death. Celia decided to burn the body by consuming it in a fire so that her master’s murder could not be traced to her (McLaurin, Pg. 31). It is quite immoral to consume human being’s body especially after murder. However, Celia’s reason justified her motivation as she feared that her master’s death could lead to her death. Her decision was driven by fear of being punished as they did to other slaves who disobeyed their masters.
An investigation headed by William Powell followed Newsome’ s death. William also owned slaves, and it’s quite difficult for him to give fair judgment in a case involving a murder of his fellow master. It is for this reason that William did everything to link George and Celia to the murder even before having a tangible evidence. For instance, Powell lied of George telling him where his master was so as to obtain a confession from Celia. William seemed to be motivated by revenge for the death of his fellow master and neighbor. Moreover, William threatened Celia of taking her children away from her. Celia tried to insist on being innocent but eventually admitted to committing the murder. Her action can be morally justified as she probably knew that admitting the murder could free her children from William’s threats.
A question of morality is imminent during the trial of Celia. To begin with, Judge Hall made a wrong call for selecting Jameson as Celia’s attorney. Jameson also owned slaves. However, Hall may have used Jameson’s’ competency and lack of participation in heated slavery debates to justify his decision. Jameson legally defended Celia well citing protection from sexual assault as a reason for committing murder. Judge Hall also never demonstrated a full course of justice during the hearing. Hall never suggested any possible self-defense mechanism but instead advised the jurors that Celia had no right of killing Newsome. Hall showed that he was indeed less aware of slave rights. Moreover, Hall failed to consider tangible evidence of sexual assault to offer at least a minimum sentence for Celia. Despite, Celia delivering a stillborn baby while waiting for execution, Hall still held his judgment. Celia deserved a fair trial and not execution.
Celia never deserved to be executed. Despite being sexually molested by Newsome every night, she tried to solve the problem but ran out of his hands. The murder of Newsome came as an accident as she only intend to protect herself from sexual assault. She showed this by seeking an intervention of Newsome’s daughters Virginia and Mary. Moreover, Celia was sexually abused by Newsome so much even when she was pregnant. As a human, her reaction towards Newsome’s visit should be understood by the Jury and the Judge. Celia should have been given a mild sentence as a punishment for manslaughter and not execution.
McLaurin, Melton Alonza. Celia, a slave. University of Georgia Press, 1991.