Child Slavery Essay

Childhood in Slavery
by Desiree Lee

The environment where a slave spent his or her infancy through childhood set the foundation of the slave child's life. Slave children were often forced to move when they were sold to different masters. Many slave children were taken from their families as early as three years old.1 Some stayed with their families as old as seven and some lucky slave children were never removed from their family.2 In most situations slave children were sold several times throughout their childhood. Some, if given the opportunity, were later able to return to their original plantations but it was seldom possible.

For most slave children, the separation from their parents and the siblings was the hardest aspect of being sold. Slaves went to great lengths to keep their family together, but there was often limits to what they could do. For example, the narrative of Charles Ball described the separation between his mother and himself after being sold.

"But my poor mother, when she saw me leaving her for the last time, ran after me, took me down from the horse, clasped me in her arms, and wept loudly and bitterly over me. My master seemed to pity her, and endeavored to soothe her distress by telling her that he would be a good master to me, and that I should not want any thing. She then, still holding me in her arms, walked along the road beside the horse as he moved slowly, and earnestly and imploringly besought my master to buy her and the rest of her children, and not permit them to be carried away by the Negro buyers; but whilst thus entreating him to save her and her family, the slave-driver, who had first bought her, came running in pursuit of her with a raw hide in his hand. When he overtook us he told her he was her master now, and ordered her to give that little Negro to its owner, and come back with him. My mother then turned to him and cried, "Oh, master, do not take me from my child!" Without making any reply, he gave her two or three heavy blows on the shoulders with his raw hide, snatched me from her arms, handed me to my master, and seizing her by one arm, dragged her back towards the place of sale."3

While childhood for most slaves was characterized by brutality and loss, they were sometimes able to make room for play. Lucy Brooks mentioned how, as a young slave girl, she and other slave girls had a playhouse.4 James V. Deane talked of working with other small boys in the fields and playing games with them such as marbles, mumble pegs, and ring plays. He remembered that a popular children's' song of the time was London Bridge.5 Richard Macks recalls how he too, worked in the field with other small children and used to run races with other boys, play marbles and have jumping contests. James Wiggins recalled being very fond of dancing, and that his two favorite dances were the jig and the buck. He also stated "we played the children's games of that time which were, tops, marbles and, another game called skinny, that was played on tree and grape vines."6 Once they began working, slave children had little free time for leisure activities. Their main activities were sneaking time to learn and read, and religious activities such as church socials. Wrestling and boxing were introductory sports for boys. Husking parties and general socializing after a full workday were also used for leisure.7

The character of their masters and mistresses had great impact on the lives of slave children. In the narrative by Lewis Charles, he described his first master as a well-meaning man, who had a kind heart, many noble qualities, and professed to be a devout Methodist.8 His wife, however, was portrayed as a "harsh, cruel, hardhearted, tyrannical woman, her whole being was filled with hatred of the blackest and bitterest kind against the poor down-trodden, crushed, despised and trampled slave; She was only happy when she had her slaves tied up to the whipping post, stripped naked, with a pair of flat irons fastened to their feet, she then would stand by, drawing the lash like an infuriated demon, all the nicer sensibilities of her womanly nature seemed to be crushed out of existence. She would ply the lash until the poor victim would faint dead away, and when the rope was cut they would fall weltering in their own gore, then she would order them to be dragged like dogs back to their little huts, and after they had been washed in salt and water, she would send them into the field to work as before under the burning, scorching rays of the sun ."9 Charles also described his relationship with his second master as very kind, and that he was treated well. However, before he was large enough to work at the trade, his master's wife died, and Charles was again sold. This time, he was bought by Mr. Fornistock, and taught to learn the tanner's trade. Charles claimed Fornistock was a "disagreeable, tyrannical wretch, and imbibed freely in the intoxicating cup, and when under its fascinating influence, he was a demon and a fiend, ready and willing to commit almost any crime, and the cruel, inhuman, barbarous treatment while Lewis was there."10

Not only was a child's relationship with his or her master critical during their early development, but also the living conditions made by the mistress. For example, in the narrative of Charlton Lewis, he described the way his mistress treated him. When he was a babe, he was kept in a quarter house from four o'clock in the morning to nine o'clock in the evening, without anything to eat or drink, or any fire to keep him warm. He claimed he was denied friends to care for him in his helplessness, and he was kept that way for fourteen months.11

The slave child's relationship with the parents was a very special, and many families had very strong bonds. Overall, slave families were large; some families had up to fifteen or more children, grandparents and the mother and father. In most circumstances the mother was the head of the family with regard to food, shelter, and medical areas. Both parents worked away for the majority of the day.12 Mothers often sacrificed their own health for their children. After dividing the scanty pittance of food allowed her by her mistress, between her sons and daughters, mothers would often go without food herself. Whatever victuals she could obtain beyond the coarse food, salt fish, and corn-bread, she carefully distributed among her children, and treated them with all the tenderness which her own miserable condition would permit.13

Most slave children grew up in circumstances of want. Charles Ball's narrative described the nutrition aspect of slavery. "I did not receive much whipping, but suffered greatly for want of sufficient and proper food."14 Some masters allowed each slave a peck of corn per week, and throughout the year slaves had to grind into meal in a hand mill for themselves. "There was a tolerable supply of meat for a short time, about the month of December, when the master killed his hogs. After that season slaves could possibly have meat once a week, unless bacon became scarce, which often happened, in which case slaves had no meat at all. However, if they were fortunate to live near both the Patuxent river and the Chesapeake Bay,"15 There was an abundance of fish in the spring, and as long as the fishing season continued. After that period, each slave received, in addition to his allowance of corn, one salt herring every day.16 Clothing was scarce and depending on the slave's master one might be given one pair of shoes, one pair of stockings, one hat, one jacket of coarse cloth, two coarse shirts, and two pair of trousers yearly.17 Often, the clothing given to slaves was not enough to protect them from bad weather. Lewis Charles recounted that

"One very cold, stinging, bitter, frosty day, as I lay on my little ragged couch with scarcely any covering over me to keep me comfortable, child like, I kicked the covering from my feet, and when my mother returned late that cold winter night, she found her child with both feet frozen, and when she doctored my feet, having placed a poultice upon them, and when next morning she removed the poultice my toes came off with it as though they had been cut off with a sharp, keen knife."18

During childhood, a slave's education was extremely limited. For many the only opportunity to read or to receive any type of teaching was from the bible and the church. For example, G.W. Offley began to learn the alphabet when he was nineteen years and eight months old.19 While on his way to work he found a piece of a chapter of an old Bible, Genesis 25, concerning Isaac, Jacob, and Esau.20 At this time there was an old colored man working for his father who took the piece of Bible, and read it to him. Offley had never heard that much of the bible before and told him he would like to learn to read. The man told him to get a book and he would teach him while he stayed with Offley's family.21 Offley bought a little primer, and Sunday morning he began to teach him to read. By Monday morning he could repeat the entire alphabet.22 The older man would give him lessons at night and Sabbath mornings.23 The old man said when he used to take his master's children to school he would carry his book in his hat and get the children to give him a lesson in the interval of the school.24 Other slaves, like David Walker, were able to learn to read by his mistress who taught him to read in "two syllables."25 He later wrote and published, "Appeal" in 1829.26 However, Walker's situation was exceptional. Many slave owners forbade slaves to learn to read because of the power it gave them.

Children's skills and work were another aspect of a slaves childhood. Certain children were trained at an early age in specific skills. William Green, a slave from the Eastern Shore, was trained at childhood to be a horse rider because of his size, and then after he could no longer ride horses he became a house worker as a wedding dowry to his master's daughter.27 Charlton Lewis stated that his master imposed many laborious duties upon him, that no child could possibly do; he would make him spread heavy hides, so heavy that men could hardly handle them, and a great many times he had been pulled into the vats, waist deep in water and ice, then he would crawl up out of the water. Shivering and suffering in wet clothes, he was then driven by his cruel master to resume his work again.28 Then because he could not do a man's work, he had to be tied up to a whipping post and with his flesh lacerated so badly he could not lay down for weeks; still there was no sympathy or charity for him.29 Greensbury Washington also performed many duties as a slave child. From the time he was nine years old he worked and supported himself until he was twenty-one years old, and all of his wages went to his master.30 When he was ten years old he sat down, and taking an old basket to pieces, taught himself to make baskets.31 After that he learned to make foot mats and horse collars out of cornhusks, and also two kinds of brooms. He made these articles at night and sold them to get money for him self. When he was sixteen years old he commenced taking contracts of wood chopping at fifty cents per cord, and hired slaves to chop for him nights. In the fall and winter they would make their fire and chop until eleven or twelve at night. They used to catch oysters and fish at night, and hire other slaves to peddle them out on Sunday mornings. By this way he helped some to buy their freedom.32



Child labour is the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any industry or business. Child labour is an illegal act and has been a big social issue in India for years. It is considered as exploitative for the future of children and country. Any type of job performed by the children in industries is difficult and demanding as well as more hazardous and morally reprehensible for them. Children have to perform a wide range of tasks and activities even after being of small age and low capacity.

We have provided below various short paragraphs on child labour under different words limit for the students. We hope following child labour paragraphs will surely help students in completing their tasks in school. It will also help small kids and children to write or recite paragraphs in simple words and small sentences. Students can select any paragraph on child labour according to their need and requirement:

Paragraph on Child Labour

Child Labour Paragraph 1

Child labour is an illegal act performed by the children in their little age by the involvement of some industrialists and businessmen all over India. Industrialists and businessmen generally chose child labour because of the efficient work in minimum time at low cost. And, children generally get involved in child labour because of their poverty and lack of education. People, who are very poor and cannot manage their two times food and clothes, become forced to send their kids and children to do some job at lowest payment instead of sending them to the school for education.

According to the survey of 2001, it was found that approximately 90 percent of the children were involved in productive activities as a supplement to their family income (23.8%) or improving their family income (66%). Tasks or activities, which are not involved in affecting the health and personal development of children or interfering in their schooling, cannot be counted as child labour. They can be taken as positive and no need to be eliminated. However, all those activities, affecting a child in all aspects (health, personal development, schooling, etc), are needed to be eliminated.


Child Labour Paragraph 2

Generally, middle class children get involved in some simple house tasks and activities which help their parents in daily routine without affecting children’s health and schooling. Such activities at home are considered to be necessary for children. However, all the activities that affect children’s health, development and schooling, come under child labour. Child labour involves some hard tasks performed by children below the age group of 14 years at very low payment. Child labour is needed by some Industrialists and businessmen in the country who want efficient work at low minimum cost.

Child labour is also the need of poor people (living below the poverty line), who fail to manage two times food for them, send their kids and children to do some job even at very low cost. Such activities should be blocked urgently by the government by supporting the poor people. They should be motivated to send their kids to school and get proper education. It is needed to take some positive steps by both, government and well doing citizens to help poor people and their kids to be productive members of the Indian society in their adult life.


Child Labour Paragraph 3

Child labour is the illegal act which forces children to be away from of their normal childhood, their schooling, their normal growth and development. Child labour is a big social issue; it is destroying the nation’s future by harming the physical and mental development of its future leaders. It is very dangerous for children in all aspects such as mentally, physically, socially, and morally. It interferes with the schooling of children, deprives their opportunity to attend school, forces them to leave school prematurely, forces them to perform tasks of long hours and heavy work, etc.

Child labour has enslaved the life of children, separated them from their childhood, education and families, exposed them to serious hazards, illnesses, diseases and many more harms at a very early age. A big percentage of children are involved in child labour in the field of agriculture, and other involved fields are fishing, mining and quarrying, construction, manufacturing, restaurants and hotels, storage, transport, communications, insurance, finance, real-estate, business services and many more. It has been spread all over the country like a disease and poison which needed to be out off this to save the present of children and future of country.

Child Labour Paragraph 4

Child labour is the illegal act running in India for many years and ruining the present and future of the children. It has taken many different forms and has been an urgent priority to be eliminated from the society without any delay. Child labour has been a deep rooted social issue which in turn has given rise to other social issues such as sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom, forced labour at low cost, etc. Some other acts involved are children are hired for prostitution, pornography, production and trafficking of drugs, etc. All such activities are harming the children’s health, development, safety and morals. All the activities, which put at risk the physical, mental and moral well-being of a child, come under the category of hazardous work.

According to the Constitution of India, children below the age group of 14 years are completely prohibited to be involved in factory, mine or other hazardous employment in anyways. They (children of 6-14 years) should be provided free and compulsory education by the state government. They should not be abused and forced by economic necessity. They should be given full opportunities and all the required facilities to develop in healthy manner. In-spite-of all these rules and regulations, there are many industries and businesses which are using child labour.


Child Labour Paragraph 5

Child labour is the harmful act to the children below 14 years of age. Despite of various rules and regulations by the Indian government, child labour is still practiced. Under development goals and strategies of India, a policy was adopted named National Child Labour Policy in 1987. Later, a Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was adopted in 1986. The national policy reiterates the directive principle of state policy in India’s Constitution. Both were adopted as the general development programmes in order to benefit the children of age group 6-14 years.

Another programme, National Child Labour Projects (NCLPs), was established by the Ministry of Labour and Employment at national level to rehabilitate the children working in hazardous occupations since 1988. According to this programme, some basic facilities are given to the children such as conducting surveys, evaluating percentage of child labour, opening special schools, pre-vocational skills training, generating employment opportunities, raising public awareness, etc. Around

One hundred NCLPs have been launched all over the country regarding rehabilitation of children working in hazardous industries (glass, bangles, locks, brassware, slate tiles, carpets, fireworks, matches, gems, etc).

Child Labour Paragraph 6

Child labor is a harmful act involves the children of below 14 years of age group. It harms the children to a great extent and keeps them away from attending regular school. The percentage of child labour is increasing all around the world because of increasing gap between rich and poor people. According to the research, it is found that around millions of young children were involved in illegal work by leaving their school in the recent decades.

According to the International Labor Organization, it is found that around 215 million children (age group 5-17 years) are working in the hazardous and extremely exploitative field as they belong to the extremely poor family. Most of the children are involved in the child labour in the fields like commercial agriculture, manufacturing, mining, fishing, production, domestic service, drug trade, prostitution, traumatic activities (serving as soldiers), etc. Child labour is very harmful as it involves in threatening the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children, child slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, child trafficking, prohibit schooling, etc. It is recorded that, approximately 114 million (53%) child laborers are in Asia and the Pacific, 65 million (30%) child laborers in sub-Saharan Africa and 14 million (7%) child laborers in Latin America are found.


Child Labour Paragraph 7

Children are considered as the future of nation. So, they should be protected a lot from any hazardous. They should be given proper care and love, time to live their childhood, getting education, and other things according to their rights. They should carry books in their hands and not bricks. They should play with toys and other indoor or outdoor games like footballs, cricket, etc. They should go to the school and not to the mines or industries.

Various NGOs are working in this field to ensure that all the Indian children are getting their basic rights guaranteed by the United Nations Charter of Child Rights, 1992. Basic rights are: right to survival, right to protection, right to development, and right to participation. Some of the industries using child labour are textiles, hand-knotted carpets, silk, construction, glass, footwear, brassware, production, gemstone polishing, fireworks, etc. Child labour is generally preferred by the industrialist and businessmen as they get efficient work at low cost. 30th of April is celebrated as Anti-Child Labour Day all over India in order to spread awareness among people against child labour.


Child Labour Paragraph 8

Child labor is the involvement of little children into hard activities at low labour cost. It persists for years and even increasing despite of laws and standards by the government to eliminate it. There are various causes of child labour however global child labor causes are almost similar. Some of the main reasons of child labour are like poverty, illiterate parents, limited access of children to education, and repression of child rights. Poverty and unemployment of adults are causing their children to get involved in some kind of work in little age at low cost. There is a huge gap between poor and rich people. So, the children of poor people do not get access to the free education and require facilities.

There are huge violations in accepting the existing laws or codes of conduct against child labour. Laws and enforcement against child labour are inadequate which allow children to involve in some kind of labor. At some places, child rights are repressed.


Child Labour Paragraph 9

Child labour is the employment of children in any type of work. It keeps children away from the childhood and interferes with their schooling. It is dangerous and harmful to all the children (below age group of 14 years) in the aspects like physically, mentally, and socially or morally. It is an exploitative act performed by many industries for their own benefits. There are various rules and regulations prohibiting child labour however not getting followed properly by the people. Child labour is generally used in the field of agriculture, factories, mining and other home-based assembly operations.

In various developing countries, the main reasons (primary causes) of child labour are high poverty level and poor schooling opportunities in front of the poor children. According to the statistics of 2010, the highest incidence rates of child labour was in sub-saharan Africa. It was witnessed by some African nations that around 50% children between ages 5-14 years are working. Child labour is generally used in rural areas and informal urban economy by their parents or owner of factories.


Child Labour Paragraph 10

Child labour is the practice of involving children below age 14 years in some economic activities as part time or full time. This practice is very harmful to the physical and mental development of the children. It keeps them away from the happy childhood and good memories with parents. Some of the primary causes of child labour are poverty, lack of facilities for proper schooling, growth of informal economy, etc. According to the national census of 1998, child labour had involved around 12.6 million children aged 4-15 years (total child population of age group 5-14 years was 253 million).

However, it was reduced to 4.98 million children in the nationwide survey of 2009-2010. According to the national census of 2011, total number of children involved in child labour (aged 5-14) was 4.35 million. Child labour is not a national problem only; it is a worldwide issue being hazardous day by day. Involving children (between age group 4-14 years) in any hazardous industries is a criminal offense, despite; it is very hard to eliminate it from the society.

Child Labour Paragraph 11

Child labour is a major social problem. It refers to the employment of children in any work in exchange for which they are given wages. Depriving children of their childhood, child labour interferes with their ability to attend regular school. Dangerous and harmful in mental, physical, social and moral terms, child labour is illegal in every country including India. It is a major socio-economic problem that has a negative impact on a child’s growth, formation of thoughts and attitude, and the ability to gain maturity. Child labour is a blot or curse which has laid its stranglehold across the country in such a way that despite the efforts of the administration, the practice of child labour is still prevalent in society.

Causes of Child Labour in India

There are many reasons for the continuing problem of child labour; these include the domestic use of children in others’ houses, shops, over population, illiteracy, poverty, debt trap etc.

According to UNICEF children are employed because they can be easily exploited. By considering various causes of child labour, we can make a strategy to curb or eliminate child labour.

How we can Stop Child Labour

Child labour is a curse which will never let our society become free from injustice. Today, we find many such instances where children are doing labour by sacrificing their childhood. We should discuss among ourselves about preventing child labour. We should tell other people too about the ways to prevent child labour. We should discuss child labour and child exploitation awareness among people.

Laws against Child Labour in India

Despite the efforts of government and non-governmental institutions (NGOs), there is little decrease in the practice of child labour in our country. Nevertheless, the government has enforced strict laws to prohibit child labour. Let’s know about these regulations:

Under the Factory Act, any child below the age of 14 is prohibited from rendering any work in any factory. Under this rule, many types of restrictions have been imposed on the working of even children of the age group of 15-18 years.

Under the Mines Act, any child below the age of 18 is prohibited from doing any work in any mine. Keeping in view the professional hazards at mines, the government has proposed to implement this stringent rule.

  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986

The government has prepared a list of activities that are dangerous for children. According to this rule, children below the age of 14 are prohibited from performing any work in the list.

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

Under this law, it is a legal offence to incite or force any child to render any labour. The law prescribes severe penalties for employers of child labour.

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), there is a provision for free education for children of 6-14 years of age.


Related Information:

Essay on Child Labour

Speech on Child Labour

Slogans on Child Labour

Child Labour in India

Child Rights Day

National Girl Child Day

Children’s Day

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