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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division


Gordon, whose back was horribly scarred by the whip, was a fugitive who ran away to the Union Army. Severe whippings were the standard punishment for disobedient slaves, especially runaways. They were sometimes so severe that people died from the floggings. In 1851, a prominent New Orleans physician, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, claimed that some slaves suffered from "drapetomania, or the disease causing negroes to run away."  The proposed cure was adequate housing, food, and fuel. However, if the disease persisted, owners were advised to whip the slaves until they were placed "into that submissive state which it was intended for them to occupy in all aftertime." 

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