Wednesday, December 26, 2007
FRACTIONAL HANDS The typical slave master systematically rated his slaves according to the amount of work expected. In regard to "field hands," a fully mature African American slave was expected to work long and hard as a "prime" ("full time") field laborer. Those of advanced years or with physical disabilities, generally were not expected to accomplish as much as prime hands, hence they were referred to as "fractional hands." According to historian Kenneth M. Stampp, children under five or six were considered "useless articles on a plantation." After the age of six, however, the child-slave "graduated" to fractional status, first as a "quarter-hand," then onward to a "half-hand," "three-quarter hand," and finally to a "full-hand" at age eighteen. See also: SLAVERY.