Moses Grandy’s Recollection of “Flogging” in his 1843 Autobiography “Life of a Slave”

Written by Jae Jones

was born a slave in Camden County, North Carolina, in 1786.  At eight years of age he became the property of his playmate, James Grandy. He was his mother’s youngest child. At least eight of his brothers and sisters were sold by his master, Billy Grandy, to other slave-owners. Moses was retained but hired out to other masters. He eventually married a slave who was owned by Enoch Sawyer. But, one day Moses wife was sold to a slave-dealer and he never saw her again. In 1833 Grandy escaped from the south with the help of the American Anti- Society. His autobiography, was published in 1843. Grandy gave this description in his autobiography about MacPherson a slave owner.


“MacPherson gave the same task to each slave; of course the weak ones often failed to do it. I have often seen him tie up persons and flog them in the morning, only because they were unable to get the previous day’s task done: after they were flogged, pork or beef brine was put on their bleeding backs, to increase the pain; he sitting by resting himself, and seeing it done. After being thus flogged and pickled, the sufferers often remained tied up all day, the feet just touching the ground, the legs tied, and pieces of wood put between the legs. All the motion allowed was a slight turn of the neck. Thus exposed and helpless, the yellow flies and mosquitoes in great numbers would settle on the bleeding and smarting back, and put the sufferer to extreme torture. This continued all day, for they were not taken down till night. In flogging, MacPherson would sometimes tie the slave’s shirt over his head. The shirt was tired so that he might not flinch when the blow was coming: sometimes he would increase his misery, by blustering and calling out that he was coming to flog again, which he did or did not, as happened. I have seen him flog slaves with his own hands, till their entrails were visible; and I have seen the sufferers dead when they were taken down. He never was called to account in any way for it. It is not uncommon for flies to blow the sores made by flogging. In that case, we get a strong weed growing in those parts, called the Oak of Jerusalem; we boil it at night, and wash the sores with the liquor, which is extremely bitter: on this, the creepers or maggots come out. To relieve them in some degree after severe flogging, their fellow-slaves rub their backs with part of their little allowance of fat meat.”

In the course of Moses Grandy’s  life he witnessed many beatings and the sale of his family members, including his first bride when they were married for only eight months. Once Grandy obtained his freedom, he worked to make the money to free his wife and children. He was able to secure the release of his wife and 15-year-old son. He dictated a narrative of his life, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy and Late a Slave in the United States of America.




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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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