“Non-slave owning businesses have been steadily growing in recent years,” according to radical abolitionist Frederick Douglas.
The strident civil rights leader says more white men are choosing to free their slaves and switch to wage labor, or are in the process allowing former slaves full control of their bodies and their work.
But while some people going cold turkey and leaving slavery behind, some abolitionists are making the choice to return to the slave market.
John and his wife stopped owning slaves in 1824 at the age of 25, when living on a plantation in rural Mississippi.
But 30 some years later, the couple decided to return to owning slaves for financial and psychological health reasons.
“We used to see the slaves being bought and sold on the market and both of us thought we should stop.”
“We started looking at indentured servitude and were really expanding our cultural horizons from our upbringing in the South.”
“When the abolitionists came out and told us about humane treatment and wages, we thought, why the heck not?”
As time passed, however, the couple saw their financial and psychological health worsen and wondered what might be the cause.
“I suffered from major financial losses and workplace disputes for almost 20 years,” said John.
“Every time I made the decision pay black people, a piece of me would die inside until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was giving away my heritage.”
“Any time my wife brought up the subject over dinner, I felt so disgusted that I had to leave the house.”
He also started to feel a growing sense of compassion and moral responsibility that his slave-owning friends did not, which made him worry that something was wrong with him.
His wife was also suffering with melancholy and hysteria from having to do some of the housework, and they both felt it was time for a change.
“She said to me it was not that we were owning slaves, but that we weren’t owning slaves.”
“At first I was skeptical about it, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.”
The transformation that took place was almost instantaneous. Within a few days, John started to feel better and all his workplace squabbles and financial troubles all but disappeared. His wife also became less melancholy.
“When you have been an abolitionist for almost 30 years, it becomes part of who you are,” he said.
“At first I felt the pangs of guilt from returning to a morally repugnant practice that I would never subject myself to, but me and my wife had a long talk about it and decided that we wanted to put our financial and psychological health above the dignity and moral consideration of black people.”
The couple are still against cruel slavery practices and are careful to treat their slaves with kindness and respect.
“I think about what my grandfather would have said about people being abolitionists,” said John. “He would have called it a bunch of nonsense.”
“Now we are going back to tradition: to how things were before we got too crazy about feeling compassion for our fellow human beings.”
Ethel from Kentucky had been an abolitionist for nearly a decade before she returned to owning slaves. However, she never expected her decision would help with her repressed appetite for human cruelty.
“I became an abolitionist because I was told I had a moral backbone,” she said.
“I have been a devout Christian all my life and decided to become an abolitionist because of my alleged feelings about the evils of slavery.”
At first, Ethel was happy with the effects of her decision, as it helped her clear up her conscience, but as time went on she became irritable and socially withdrawn from doing the right thing.
“I remember being teased I went out in public so I just stopped talking. I also got angry quickly when I saw other humans being treated like property.”
“I didn’t yet understand that it was my repressed desire to see powerless, mutilated black bodies that was making me feel this way.”
A decade later, Ethel began craving the brutality of tortured, helpless black people, and she started to secretly keep one or two slaves locked in her room.
Later that year, she was found out by her husband who told her this was a sign they should go back to owning slaves.
“I feel healthier now that I’ve completely discarded my moral compass and embraced backwards cultural norms,” said Ethel.
“I wish I could live without slavery, but I no longer believe that abolitionism is healthy.”