African American suffering and suicide under slavery

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


While the suffering of slaves in the antebellum American South is common knowledge, what is not so commonly known is the suicide rate among those slaves. How did slaves respond to the suffering they were forced to undergo? While some slaves did choose suicide, the rates appear to be surprisingly low. This is consistent with suicide rates for Africa and for people of African descent living in other areas of the world, and further supports the theory that a low suicide rate is an element of African culture. The overwhelming majority of African-American slaves chose to deal with their suffering through a variety of means, including resistance, external compliance and spirituality. When slaves did resort to suicide, it was apparently often in response to a deterioration in their circumstances or unfulfilled expectations. When the slaves developed dialog to address their suffering on an ideological level, they frequently did so through religious channels.




Copyright (c) 2002-2022, LYRASIS. All rights reserved.