Search Submit. By , slavery had become an illegal practice in the United States of America, allowing former slaves to own properties and start lives of their own as long as they, like everybody, adhered to the laws that governed their respective jurisdictions although many of those laws still discriminated largely against the Black race. And the same went for many intolerant and completely dogged individuals who still believed that the Black race was a second-class one and should therefore not be allowed to exist on its own. Peter Hardeman Burnett, first Governor of California and a man who rose to the highest law-making body of America, for instance, was one of these people.
The treatment of slaves in the United States varied by time and place, but was generally brutal and degrading, especially on plantations. Whipping and rape were almost routine; there were businesses to which the owner could turn over the whipping. There were certainly some kind and relatively enlightened slave owners, but not on large plantations. Only a small minority of slaves received anything resembling decent treatment, and even that could vanish on such occasion as an owner's death.
The law provided slaves with virtually no protection from their masters. On large plantations this power was delegated to overseers. These men were under considerable pressure from the plantation owners to maximize profits. They did this by bullying the slaves into increasing productivity.