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Aberration of MindSuicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South$
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Diane Miller Sommerville

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469643304

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469643304.001.0001

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De Lan’ of Sweet Dreams

De Lan’ of Sweet Dreams

Suffering and Suicide among the Enslaved

(p.85) Chapter 3 De Lan’ of Sweet Dreams
Aberration of Mind

Diane Miller Sommerville

University of North Carolina Press

Suicide among the enslaved has been well documented, with most historians arguing that slave suicides were evidence of resistance. Adopting a ‘neo-abolitionist’ approach, this chapter, building on the exposes of abolitionists who wrote about slave suicides, takes seriously the individual reasons the enslaved killed or tried to kill themselves in order to move beyond attributing these acts ideologically. This approach honors the suffering and full humanity of the enslaved and the experiences that led some to self-murder. White southerners ignored evidence that the enslaved suffered from depression or committed suicide, in order to mask the many causes of slave suffering including rape and sexual assault, punishment, abuse, separation of families, hopelessness. The enslaved embraced self-murder because it ended their suffering.

Keywords:   neo-abolitionist, slave suicide, rape, sexual assault, separation of families, punishment, abuse, suffering, trauma

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