A Glimpse of Life on Antebellum
Slave Plantations in Texas
ABIGAIL CURLEE HOLBROOK*
SLAVES MADE AN INVALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TOWARD THE DEVELOP-
ment of antebellum Texas. Without their labor the clearing of land
for settlement would have been materially reduced or delayed and the
cultivation and production of Texas cotton, corn, sugar, and other crops
would have been but an asterisk on the pages of history. The existence
of slaves and the availability of their labor provided a measurable
quantity and quality of food and fiber for the record of the world, not
to mention producing a cultural impact on Texas which cannot be
The life of a Texas slave was usually somewhat easier than that of a
brother in the other southern states. The fertility of the soil helped to
make it so; the salubrious climate lifted all spirits, even those of slaves.
However, the white settlers were stimulated by the physical and emo-
tional freedom evoked by the satisfaction of a fresh start. For the blacks
this stimulation was lacking. Although the lives of both blacks and
whites were as varied as the individuals themselves, and although their
housing, food, clothing, health, recreation, education, religion, and atti-
tudes differed from plantation to plantation and from one area of Texas
to another, discernible patterns evolved and definite trends can be
Of prime consideration to any settler-white pioneer or Negro slave-
was housing. For a home site most settlers chose a tree-covered rise or
* Abigail Curlee Holbrook, whose article on "Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas"
appeared in the April 1970 Quarterly, has been interested in the Texas slave plantation
system for many years. She is the author of a forthcoming book on the subject.
1 During the years that the author has been gathering information about the Texas
plantation system she conducted not only formal interviews with people who could give
her information-often first-hand information-but she also engaged in many and repeated
conversations with people whose casual comments helped fill in the general background.
Often these conversations occurred almost daily, over prolonged periods of time, and it is
impossible at this time to assign a definite date to a conversation which brought to light a
particular item of information. Therefore, some citations refer only to a series of inter-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed August 1, 2015.