Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave

First, we are instructed on how to be good slaves: “Never look a white person in the face,” and always say “yes sir and yes ma’am.” As the program promised, we encountered diverse attitudes regarding our fugitivity: slave traders who bought us only after we correctly answered questions about our assumed skills and imagined slave identities (I passed the test when, as a self-described cook, I knew the first step in frying a chicken meant wringing its neck); white women who wanted us off their land because they would have to pay a $500 fine for each of us; another, obviously doomed fugitive slave; a raving white man spuriously blaming us for his wife’s death and his unemployment; Quakers who offered dry cornbread and respite; and a free black family. Before returning to the museum, an oracle appeared to read each participant’s fate. Some would drown, others would settle in Indiana as either dentists or blacksmiths. Me? I would be apprehended by slave catchers, returned to Kentucky, and branded as a runaway. Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: Ninety Minutes a Slave