OVERSEER An overseer was normally a white man appointed by a slavemaster to supervise the work of black slaves and, in the absence of the slavemaster himself, to run the entire operation of the plantation. Generally appointed on a year-to-year basis, overseers were particularly common to those large plantations utilizing the service of thirty or more slaves. On especially large plantations, the overseer was assisted by one or more black slavedrivers and, occasionally, a black suboverseer.
The slavedrivers and suboverseers were trusted slaves used to maintain a regimented work schedule in the fields and to impose disciplinary measures when necessary. On smaller plantations, the use of overseers was uncommon. Most medium-sized plantations (15-30 slaves) were personally supervised by the slavemaster himself with the aid of a black slave foreman or slavedriver, while smaller units (less than a half-dozen slaves) had neither overseers nor slavedrivers.