Slaves were bought and sold in Ouachita Parish

There were slaves in Ouachita Parish up to the end of the Civil War. Local slave markets were opened by Walter L. Campbell. There were others in Trenton and Natchez. Slaves in the area sold for $500-$900 a piece for adult males. This price was a bargain when compared to the New Orleans quoted price for slaves.

Slaves were governed in Ouachita Parish by a special set of laws called the Black Codes. There first enacted by Bienville in 1724. On June 7, 1806 they were revised and forty sections of law were passed by the territorial council pertaining to the duties, rights and punishments of slaves. These laws were in force as long as slavery lasted. Nearly all slaves in Ouachita Parish worked on plantations. Those who worked on smaller plantations shared their toil with their masters while those of larger plantations worked in a more structured arrangement. As a general rule slaves fell into two categories: House slaves and field slaves.

The House slaves were those who worked around the big house, the yard, and gardens. The field slaves were those who cultivated the fields, working in gangs under the supervision of an overseer. Many slaves worked from sunrise to sunset and sometimes until after dark. Slaves usually picked 100 pounds of cotton per day during harvest time but some picked much more. One Mississippi slave, east of the Ouachita, picked 323 pounds of cotton in one day.
Slaves did not enjoy their plight. Many rebelled against their masters and caused work slow downs and broke equipment. Some faked sickness and others ran away. Many Ouachita slaves received weekly rations of food consisting of a peck of meal and three to four pounds of meat. Sometimes they were given sweet potatoes, peas and rice. They were allowed to own gardens and chickens on some plantations. While many masters kept their slaves fed, there were others who neglected their slaves with respect to clothing. The average slave wore “Negro clothes” of jeans and home spun fabrics, and brogan shoes.

Many masters were only concerned with whether their slaves could work, not how they dressed. Slaves were housed in small shacks, usually behind the plantation big house. There often were no beds, windows or wooden floors. There were practically no furnishings. Mattresses were made from cotton sacks filled with corn shucks and other stuffings. Ouachita slaves looked forward to two times of year, the period following the harvest of the crops, called the “layby” and Christmas. At Christmas, the slaves engaged in singing and dancing and merrymaking and were sometimes given a full week off from their labors.

Slavery ended in Ouachita Parish on April 4, 1864, a year and three months after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. There were about 500 slaves freed in Ouachita Parish when the Union troops marched through the city and reclaimed it in victory. Upon the arrival of the troops many slaves retaliated against their former masters. Some killed their masters, others rejoiced.