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Enslaved persons worked on plantations. They were bought and sold the same as any other possessions. Chattel is the correct word. The enslaved were chattel. The enslaved women not only worked in the fields or in the mansions from sunup to sundown, but they were often abused by their masters. It was totally lawful for their owners to rape them, to use them as breeders, to sell their children for cash or trade them for livestock.

In this painting I wanted to contrast the accessories of plantation owners’ wives to those of the enslaved. Jewelry, hair adornments, boas and spangles hung from the missus’ necks and shoulders. 

The enslaved women also wore accessories: iron collars which made it impossible to escape through the woods and rivers and, though not common, headpieces (‘branks”), so they could not speak or eat.