A Dispassionate Description of ‘the Stocks’

Here is self, continuing with her heartwarming holiday reading.

The level of detail in this one-paragraph description of the stocks is amazing, all the more so because the knock-out blow is in the very last sentence. (Who invented this ingenious device? Self burns to know! It must have been a man of great practicality, shouldn’t he be famous? Maybe he is mentioned in the Museum of Lynching, which is on self’s bucket list of museums to visit? Or maybe it’s not unique to the New World, maybe it was brought over from England, or Spain, or France — she wishes she paid more attention when she visited the Museum of Torture in Balboa Park in San Diego)

The stocks are formed of two planks, the lower one made fast at the ends to two short posts, driven firmly into the ground. At regular distances half circles are cut in the upper edge. The other plank is fastened to one of the posts by a hinge, so that it can be opened or shut down, in the same manner as the blade of a pocket-knife is shut or opened. In the lower edge of the upper plank corresponding half circles are also cut, so that when they close, a row of holes is formed large enough to admit a negro’s leg above the ankle, but not large enough to enable him to draw out his foot. The other end of the upper plank, opposite the hinge, is fastened to its post by lock and key. The slave is made to sit upon the ground, when the uppermost plank is elevated, his legs, just above the ankles, placed in the sub-half circles, and shutting it down again, and locking it, he is held secure and fast. Very often the neck instead of the ankle is enclosed. In this manner they are held during the operation of whipping.

12 Years a Slave: A True Story of Betrayal, Kidnap, and Slavery, by Solomon Northup, Chapter 9

Self managed to get through four books in December. Which, given all the things demanding her attention simultaneously, not to mention trying to keep herself from getting COVID and not getting too upset with POTUS’s pardoning all the criminals in the US Justice System who call themselves his friends, is downright amazing.

At the start of the year, she committed to reading 35 books. She didn’t think she would make it, but she has.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.


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