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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


(sung)Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down.

Narrator: Slavery existed in most western counties, but on a smaller scale than that found on eastern Virginia plantations.

Farmers usually owned only a few slaves, and often worked beside them in the fields. Yet conditions for slaves in western Virginia could be as bad as anywhere. Slave families were routinely separated. A slaveholder in Shepherdstown offered to sell a slave with or without her four children. In Harpers Ferry, a woman gave her granddaughter a slave as a birthday present.

In the hot salt works along the Kanawha River, slaves were leased, not bought, because the dangerous work wore them out so quickly.

Many western Virginians who didn’t own slaves resented those who did. “If you desire to employ slave labor,” a farmer told a new resident, “I would advise you to go to Hell, as slavery is said to flourish best in warm climates. Here, you will find yourself among a people who can take care of themselves.”

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