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Hawkins Wilson Letters Analysis

From Wilson’s letters, I ascertained the grim reality of slavery the suffering that the slaves experienced under the owner’s power and how the slave trade separated them from their families. The letters illustrated Wilson’s effort to reconstruct his family which had fallen apart due to slave activities. His life was full of fantasies and memories of his family. By this, the writer illustrates the depression experienced by slaves due to family separation. It is also clear that his life was spiritual and he chose to establish a close relationship with God for him to allow him to meet with his family in heaven. According to the letters, Wilson was happily married to a girl from Georgia and knew how to read and write.

According to Wilson’s letters, slaves were termed property that could be sold and inherited by their specific owners. Slaves are obliged to live their lives serving their masters, and their owners can dissolve. It is also clear that slaves worked under the power of their owners although there were certain regulations on master-slave treatment. In the analysis, I also learned that slaves are people who have been fundamentally excluded from society shifted across localities and destined to enslavement. From the letters, it is clear that some masters permitted their slaves to participate in spiritual roles as well as education. It is evident in the letters that slaves were given a certain freedom to communicate for as long as they wanted and were not treated as slaves. Blacks could now be baptized, marry, attend church services and develop intimate relationships. In this letter, a far more positive story on slavery is told.

The information provided by letters describes a different version of slavery. In the letter, slaves enjoyed numerous privileges not attributed to a “normal” slave as described in other literary sources. According to Wilson, the slaves were free; this is evident when Hawkins writes to his sister that they were now given freedom, unlike before (Donnan, 1965). Slave life was different from past forms of the slave trade as the slaves were allowed to acquire education. Their educational efforts were met which enabled them to read and write, unlike past slave stories where slaves were denied access to education as they were viewed as lacking the mental capacity to learn and that education would lead to rebellions.

This document offers historical evidence of the institution of slavery. The slave institutions believed that they would not survive without slaves and hence conducted a long-distance slave trade where African slaves were sailed from East Africa and used, abused and used as plantation labourers. The slave institutions enslaved Africans as they were in need of labourers (Schneider and Schneider, 2014). They also believed that Africans were resistant to diseases, unlike Europeans. The institutions were characterized by constant kidding and constant warfare as well as slave raiding and slave trading by the Europeans (Paine, 1975, p. 265).

The most interesting topic from the letter was how the Europeans treated slaves as an “item.” The slaves were subject to trade activities, which, in my opinion, was inappropriate and inhumane. Treating fellow human beings as property was the highest social disorder that the slaves experienced. Selling the slaves and subjecting them to forced labour was the main trading activity in that era since slaves were the economic driving force. The slave masters also “owned” the slaves in such a manner that even if they died the slaves could be inherited and continue serving the new master whether they like it or not.


Donnan, E. (Ed.). (1965). Documents illustrative of the history of the slave trade to America (Vol. 1). Octagon Books.

Schneider, D., & Schneider, C. J. (2014). Slavery in America. Infobase Publishing.

Paine, T. (1975). African slavery in America. The Works of Thomas Paine, ed. William Vander Weyde, Patriot’s Edition (New Rochelle, NY: Thomas Paine Historical Association, 1925)2(5), 269.



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