A Barrel of Laughs: Why Slaves Were Not Allowed to Laugh on Many Plantations

2 Posted by - November 14, 2018 - Injustices, LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Slaves with boisterous personalities and wanting to laugh or shout often had to stifle their outbursts by the use of the “laughing barrel.” It was not by choice but this is what they were trained to do on the plantation. The  house of praise during this time also used “shouting barrels” when the slaves would steal away at night for church services. The slaves would stifle the noises they wanted to make by holding their heads over barrels (sometimes filled with water) to keep slave patrols and their white plantation owners from hearing them.

Poet Maya Angelou was quoted saying, “the slaves were not allowed to laugh on many plantations. When the urge to laugh became irrepressible, the slaves had a ‘laughing barrel’ into which they would lean way down, with the pretext of getting something, and laugh. The slaves would then go back to whatever it was they were doing.”

White people viewed slaves laughing as a form of disrespect to them. Some plantations owners had barrels set up on the plantation and when a slave heard something funny they would have to run off to one of these barrels in order to laugh. Some people believe that this is where the phrase a “barrel of laughs” derived.

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28 Comments

  • […] A Barrel of Laughs: Why Slaves Were Not Allowed to Laugh on Many Plantations [blackthen.com] […]

  • Al Bostick July 23, 2017 - 12:23 pm Reply

    Who knew? Yet another piece of African wisdom, learned. the older I get the more I find there is to know about us!!!!!

  • Alexis July 27, 2017 - 2:21 pm Reply

    Interesting use of words in this article. Slaves with “boisterous personalities”, and “wanting to laugh or shout often”, they were “trained” to do on the plantation, Slaves would “steal away” at night. The devil is always busy. Smh

  • Timcosmic October 20, 2017 - 9:20 pm Reply

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    • SnowWhite August 31, 2018 - 11:21 am Reply

      deeper than yours

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      Bluntly, why have Pinks infiltrated the original manuscript and then try to render it useless.
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  • Curtis Penn October 18, 2018 - 8:40 pm Reply

    Deep analysis of the crisis in Black America Sir.

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    It’s depressing to recognize that such power existed to allow a lot of sick minded whites/latinos to do what they did to people kidnapped from African countries and indigenous black and red people.

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