The following annotations to A Slave were compiled in the fall 2000 by Eric Bradford, Shannon Plummer, and Wheeler Ray Winstead III, first-year students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a class project in Professor William L. Andrews's First-Year Seminar on Slavery and Freedom in African American Literature and Film. We welcome any corrections, additions, or suggested revisions of these annotations. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clark County, Winchester, Kentucky—a town in central Kentucky, twenty miles southeast of Lexington, founded in 1793 in a predominantly rural and pro-slavery region.
Tanner—one whose occupation is to tan hides, or convert them into leather by steeping or soaking hides in an infusion of oak or some other bark, whereby it is impregnated with tannin, or tannic acid (which exists in several species of bark), and is thus rendered firm, durable, and in some degree impervious to water.
Lexington—a historic slavery hub in Fayette County, Kentucky, especially during the 1830's to the 1850's when slaves accounted for approximately half of the population.
Oxford—a town in western Ohio, near the Indiana border.
Padarollers—a watchman during the slavery era who patrolled, or maintained security about, an assigned area or group of slaves.
Winchester—a town in north central Kentucky east of Lexington, a center of a tobacco and livestock raising.
Beef club—a beef-house; a place to buy beef.
Tanyard—An enclosure where the tanning of leather takes place; a tannery.
Tan vat—A vat in which hides are steeped.
Fracas—A noisy and boisterous quarrel or fight, a brawl.
Hominy—Hulled, broken, and dried kernels of corn, boiled for eating.
Pestle—a club-shaped, hand-held tool for grinding or mashing substances in a mortar.
Sugar desk—a storage box for sugar.
Uncle Tom—The pious and self-sacrificial slave protagonist of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).
Cords—A unit of quantity for cut fuel wood, equal to a stack measuring 4 × 4 × 8 feet or 128 cubic feet (3.62 cubic meters).
Tan bark—the bark of the oak, hemlock, or other trees that, when bruised and broken in a mill, is used in tanning hides.
Smoke house—a building in which meat and fish are cured with smoke.
Pig iron—unalloyed, unrefined iron.
Beam-shop—A small building where hides are preserved by hoisting them over structured wooden beams.
"Servants, obey your master"—Ephesians 6:5-6--"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
Euchre—A popular four player partner card game which uses only the highest 32 cards.
Apple jack—apple brandy.
Peter—One of the original disciples of Jesus.
Cat-o'-nine-tail—Commonly used on slaves, a whip with nine knotted ropes or cords secured to a handle making marks similar to that of deep scratches from a cat.
John C. Brackenridge—John C. Breckinridge (1821-75), Kentucky politician, Vice President of the U.S., 1857-61, and Democratic candidate for President of the U.S. in 1860.
"sell me down the river"—To sell a slave to the slave markets in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Balsam—An aromatic resinous substance used as skin medication.
Union Home Guards—A volunteer force, sympathetic to the Union, used for meeting local emergencies when regular armed forces are needed elsewhere.
Cradling—In agriculture, cutting using a cradle, a broad curved single-edged blade with a long, bent handle, used for reaping grain.
Camp Nelson—A large Union Army base from 1863 to 1865, located 5 miles south of Nicholasville, Kentucky, the largest recruiting, mustering, and training center for African American troops in Kentucky.
Louisville—A major city in Jefferson County, Kentucky, politically divided during the Civil War.
Bowling Green—A shipping and marketing center in southern Kentucky.
Russelville—A town in central Arkansas
Varioloid—A mild form of smallpox occurring in people who have been previously vaccinated or have had the disease.
Sherman—William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91), Union General.
Rockaway—a four-wheeled carriage with two seats and a standing top.
Muster out—To leave or be discharged from military service.
Minks—An animal resembling a weasel.