Celia, a Slave, written by Melton McLaurin, who was previously a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, is a nonfiction book first published in 1991. It explores the trial and execution of Celia, who was a slave in Callaway County, Missouri. She would eventually kill and burn her master. It revolves around the history of slavery in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. While there are many historical events in the book to examine, McLaurin distinguishes the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Bleeding Kansas riots of the 1850s as being somewhat important. During this short report I wish to summarize the events within the book and conduct a critical evaluation that examines one critical theme that may be apparent…show more content… During this period, the American legal system defined slaves as the property of their masters, and as slaves they have no legal or human rights. Celia was executed by hanging at the end of December, her life a testament to the tragedies of slavery. As I read the book I was critical of the theme of Historical Silence. My analysis is that despite being a particular, nonfictional historical account of the life of a slave, Celia, a Slave contains a great deal of assumption about the events that the author attempts to illustrate. On almost every page, McLaurin encounters holes in the historical record and attempts to fill them with his own educated guesswork. Guesswork is sometimes vital in the study of history, however in this case it is slightly exaggerated.
In the book, examples of these assumptions abound and here are a few notable examples: McLaurin hypothesizes that Newsom likely raped Celia directly after her purchase. He also offered that the defense team broke her out of her cell after sentencing despite there being no absolute proof of this. There were only a few fragments of evidence. The author tries to imagine the private and emotional landscapes of the historical characters he is following, which are irretrievably lost to…show more content… A reasonable amount of information about her life has been preserved in legal and historical records, however, the information is not enough to fully understand Celia. There is no record of her life written in her own words. Celia’s story is of huge interest, for it opens a window into the lives of people, women especially, who suffered under slavery. In a situation such as this, does a historian try anyway, guessing when he doesn’t know for sure? Or does he simply resign to hearsay? McLaurin boldly chooses the former option. That he lacks the details to complete his history of Celia is evidence to the fact that slavery, while arguably the most painful, unpleasant, and permanent mark on American history, is also perhaps most invisible and silent. The lives of the slaves are fundamentally