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Dear Mother,

I am writing to you from the new land. It is a very strange place. As the ship drew nearer to the harbor, there were other ships of different kinds and sizes. We soon anchored amongst them in some town. Many merchants and planters came on board. They put us in separate parcels and examined us attentively. They also made us jump, and pointed to the land, signifying we were to go there. Soon after we were all put down under the deck again. Many of the other men were trembling. I was scared also but did not let the others see since I am a warrior. The white people got some old slaves from the land to talk to us. We were told that we had to work, and were soon to go on land, where we should see many of our country people. This report eased us much, and sure enough, soon after we landed, there came to us Africans of all languages.

We were conducted immediately to the merchants yard, where we were all put up together, like sheep in a fold, without regard to sex or age. As every object was new to me, everything I saw filled me with surprise. What struck me first was that the houses were built with bricks and many levels. They were very different from those I had seen back home. While I was in this astonishment, one of my fellow prisoners spoke to a countryman of his about the horses who said they were the same kind they had in their country. We were not many days in the merchants custody, before we were sold. At the beat of a drum, buyers rushed at once into the yard where we were confined. The white people make a choice of those that they like best. In this manner, relations and friends are separated, most of them never to see each other again.

Usually I have two regular meals in a day. I have breakfast after laboring from daylight, and supper when the work of the remainder of the day is over. During the harvest season I have three meals. My dress is of a cloth. The children wear nothing but a shirt. The older people have a pair of pantaloons or a gown in addition, if they are female. In the winter I have an overcoat, a wool hat, and a pair of coarse shoes.

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I am lodged in a log hut, on the bare ground. The tops are partly open. There are many of us in a single room where we are huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. My bed is a collection of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corners and boxed in with some boards and a single blanket the only covering. Some of the people sleep on a plank with their heads raised on an old jacket and their feet toasting before the fire. The wind whistles and the rain and snow blow in through the cracks, and the damp earth soaks the floor. I use my jacket as my pillow.

I am given an allowance weekly. It isn’t much, mostly a peck of sifted corn meal, a dozen and a half herrings, and two and a half pounds of pork. Some of the boys would eat this up in three days, then they would have to steal, or they could not perform their daily tasks. They would visit the hog pen, sheep pen, and granaries to grab some food. I myself did this many times with others. We would run among the stumps in chase of a sheep that we might have something to eat. In regard to cooking, sometimes many have to cook at one fire, and before all could get to the fire the overseers horn would sound. Many times I have to eat only a piece of bread and meat, or herring broiled on the coals. At harvest time, the cooking is done at the great house, as the hands they have are wanted in the field. This made us feel more like people, and we like it, for we sit down then at meals. In the summer we have one pair of linen trousers. Every fall, we are allowed one pair of woolen pantaloons, one woolen jacket, and two cotton shirts.

From the period when the tobacco plants are set in the field, there is no resting time until it is housed. It is planted out early in the spring, and must be cut and taken out of the field before the frost comes. After it is hung and dried, the labor of stripping and preparing it for the hogshead in leaf, or of manufacturing it into twist, is comparatively a work of leisure and ease. On the very cold, snowy, or rainy weather days, the women are allowed to remain in the house.

My master has four sons in his family. They all left except one, who remained to be a driver. He would often come to the field and accuse one of us of having taken something. There are times, when we do not know that he is anywhere around. He would be in the woods watching us, first thing we would know, he would be sitting on the fence looking down upon us, and if any had been idle, the young master would visit him with blows. I have known him to kick this old woman who had raised and nursed him, and I have seen him punish others awfully in the woods.

We are constantly watched by the patrols, who ride about to try to catch us off the quarters, especially at the house of a free person of color. I have known some slaves to stretch clothes lines across the street, high enough to let the horse pass, but not the rider; then the boys would run, and the patrols in full chase would be thrown off by running against the lines. The patrols are poor white men, who live by plundering and stealing, getting rewards for runaways, and setting up little shops on the public roads. They will take whatever the slaves steal, paying in money, whiskey, or whatever the slaves want. They take pigs, sheep, wheat, corn or any thing that is raised. They almost encourage the slaves to steal. They then take these to the market the next day. When the slaves run away, these same traders catch them if they can, to get the reward.

It is a very different and hard life then I was used to back home. Every night I plan my escape. I do worry though that I will not get far and will be caught the next morning and whipped. When I fall asleep I dream of my nights back home with you and father. I have accepted this new life and also the fact that I will never be able to return back to Africa ever again. I just hope that I would be able to escape as some slaves already have. If I am able to make it into the northern border, I will be free again.

Love your son,

Kunta Kinte

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