Appearing in an Arkansas newspaper 150 years ago this week was a slightly unorthodox article; not unorthodox for 1860, but rather a suprising find to the contemporary Arkansas historian. As millions of pages of history are written by the victors in the past 150 years, a true and accurate portrait of a slave’s life and intentions have been clouded by manufactured history. The below account explains why runaway slaves returned to the south under their own willlpower:
[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, March 7, 1860, p. 2, c. 2
The Exiled Free Negroes Returning into Slavery.
The northern papers have been busily assailing the inhumanity of the act which exiled this unfortunate class from our State.
We have now tested practically the law which relieved us from their presence, and the free negroes have tested the life of freedom among the freedom shriekers at the North.
Our experience is of the most agreeable character, and the law has proven itself to be one of the very best on our statute book. Since Arkansas has been made by that act strictly a slave State, since all hope is cut off by statutory enactment of slaves here being liberated by will, or deed, unless the slave is carried beyond our limits in the lifetime of his owner and set free, there has been a marked change for the better in the character of the slave population. There is no discontent and no disposition to shirk service due even to indulgent masters. We can safely recommend to our sister States the law as salutary and wise under existing circumstances. The conduct of the northern abolitionists brought about the necessity of this law, forced us in self-defence to pass it, and the result is they have forced into voluntary slavery a large number of free negroes.
Several of “the exiles” have returned and selected masters in this city. Others have returned to other counties to our certain knowledge, and those here report a state of facts which any one could have foreseen.
All left here with plenty of money. A few month’s residence reduced them to penury and want. They say the abolitionists swindled them out of all their money and gave them in exchange only lip professions, that the free negro of the North has poorer fare and a harder time than the slave of the South.