African American History Culture : Black Female Millionaire In The 18th Century

Discussion in 'African American History Culture' started by Aluku, Nov 10, 2015.

  1. Aluku

    Aluku Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    May 9, 2012
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    Elisabeth Samson was a self made black millionaire in the 18th century.

    What is remarkable is that she did this in a slave colony of Suriname.

    She did own real estate and various plantations. At first we may be put off by this fact alone, because we look at it with the perspective of modern society and stories we heard about slavery.

    The truth however is always more nuanced. In Elisabeth's case the slaves were freed upon her death.

    You may be shocked to learn that there were actually slaves who were fairly rich, who could buy their own freedom but sometimes didn't.
    One of the reasons some slaves would not buy their freedom is legal protection. Blacks did not have any legal protection to speak of and a testimony of any white was usually enough to convict a black person in that time.
    So if the slave had a master who was "fair", he could depend on him/her to defend him in court!
    This fact has bearing on the story of Elisabeth Samson as you will find out.

    How did the slaves earn money?

    During off times between havest and planting the slaves were hired out for various jobs and had to bring a certain amount to his master and was allowed to keep the difference. Depending on the type of master this could work out good for a slave as far as keeping profit for himself.

    The best situations were usually skilled carpenters, skilled masonary, skilled machinists(repair), seamstresess.

    The flip side was that if the slaves didn't bring in the expected amount of income he/she would be punished!

    Elesabeth Samson's case was unique.

    There is a book about her life called: "The Free Negress Elisabeth"

    Here is the author and historian Cynthia Mcleod giving a lecture about Elisabeth Samson