By Joseph E. Illick
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Lazy wretches . . ”36 Breaking the will, of course, involved the mental manipulation of the child, a recent addition to the parental armory justiWed by the concept of infant depravity; willfulness connoted sinfulness from which children must be protected. 37 Life did have its lighter side, however. 38 Since distinctions were seldom made on the basis of age—young and old engaged in activities together, work or play, though the latter was suspect in New England—Cotton’s pronouncement may stand as an early recognition of the distinctiveness of childhood.
Most slaves were women; enslavement of children and removal far from home was also a frequent practice. qxd 4/25/02 3:13 PM 38 Page 38 Chapter 3 selected by the child’s father in communication with spirits he encountered in a dream or while possessed. 4 The African practice of naming a child for the day, month, or season of his or her birth, as well as using the African rather than English designation, was evident among American blacks, slave and free. Often naming was delayed until it was reasonably certain the newborn would survive, since the necronymic pattern typical of European families, that is, bestowing the name of a deceased child on one newly born, was rejected in favor of recognizing the individual identity of the child.
This interpretation is challenged by the observation that whipping games, for example, are universal. Certainly slave children saw their parents (but not their white peers) beaten, and their parents in turn beat them—whether because this was traditional practice or to prepare them for their adults lives. 20 On the other hand, that black and white children played together on the plantation, usually boys with boys and girls with girls, probably made the future seem less portentous. Their games were inXuenced by the African past and the European American present.