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'Her Black Masters'
Remembering Emilia by Robert M. Grooms, from Slavery in The Americas: The Unvarnished Truth, The Barnes Review, Jan/Feb 2017

Charleston, South Carolina, 1778

Mary Glass, "a free person of color," a politically correct term now and then, purchased Emilia Davis, a 12-year-old orphan as a servant. Mary Glass was married to a free person of color by the name of John Glass.

Presumably, due to the recently opened hostilities between the Colonies and Great Britain, the Glasses moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a French-Creole settlement under Spanish military rule.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1780

Emilia Davis died after a severe beating by Mary Glass and Mrs. Glass was placed on trial. Mister Glass is not tried for murder, but serves as a witness for the prosecution, in a trial officiated by a Spanish Captain Favrot.

It should be noted that throughout the Plantation Period, that female slave owners were renowned as far more cruel than the masters and that much of this ire was directed at the women and girls whom their husbands raped. It is not know if there was a relationship between Mister Glass and his Caucasian property. However, if he were to impregnate her, the child would be his and his wife's property for life, making it likely that Emilia would stay on as an unpaid employee after she was released from her contract at age 30. Indeed, if he impregnated her, he would be able to charge her with the crime of getting pregnant while in his employ and have time added to her term of service.

Also testifying for the prosecution were:

Madame Francoise Gause, testifying that it was common knowledge that Emilia was routinely tied and beaten, that Mary had pierced Emilia's tongue with a red hot eating fork, and that she saw the girl once with her "eye almost out of her head."

Sarah West, a free negress testified that, while she had been visiting the Glasses, Mary had tied Emilia to a ladder and whipped and beaten her, making her husband watch. When West complained to Mary of the torture, the servant owner replied that Emilia "was her property to do with as she wanted to."

Samuel, a free negro, investigated the sounds of Emilia being beaten and was threatened with bodily harm.

Thomas George, a free mulatto of 11 years of age, testified in gruesome detail about beatings that he witnessed, claiming that Emilia's "buttocks were as raw as a piece of beef, all bloody," that Mary washed the girl in salt and water in between beatings, that the whippings sometimes extended from noon until night fall and that on one occasion he feared for Emilia's sores, that "maggots were getting into them."

On this and other testimony, primarily the tearful admittance by Mister Glass that his wife had murdered Emilia, Mary Glass was found guilty of murder.

In Catholic Maryland or, Anglican Virginia, those masters found guilty of willfully and cruelly slaying servants were never handed a sentence more severe than a fine or a prohibition for owning servants. But Spanish Martial law was a different matter.

Baton Rogue, Louisiana, 11 a.m., July 26, 1781

Mary Glass had her right hand cleaved off at the foot of the gallows.

She was then walked up the stairs to the platform, where her head was chopped off. To be mounted on a pole at Brown Cliffs in the Pointe Cooper district.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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