There have been hours in my unhappy life, many of them, when the contemplation of death as the end of earthly sorrow-of the grave as a resting place for the tired and worn out body-has been pleasant to dwell upon. But such contemplations vanish in the hour of peril. No Man, in his full strength, can stand undismayed, in the presence if the “king of terrors.” Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it. At that moment [while battling a white overseer in self-defense] it was dear to me, enslaved and treated as I was. – Solomon NorthUp, Twelve Years a Slave, 1853
It was believed that African Slaves did not commit suicide, but former slave Ida Blackshear Hutchinson told of a girl that committed suicide during an interview, as reported by The National Humanities Center. A young black slave girl by the name of Lu loved music and to dance. So every chance Lu got, she ran off to go to the dances. The slave patrollers would try to catch her, but she had youth and speed on her side. She always outran them at night.
Lu would run to her cabin and hide her quarter for the dances in her mouth, as slaves during that time were not suppose to have or handle money. But one particular night, Lu got the quarter stuck in her throat, and instead of allowing the patrollers to beat and mark her up, she went down to the slough and drowned herself.
If patrollers could not catch up with the slave who they saw running, they would go to the master’s property, get the slave and beat them, and the master would allow them to do it. Generally speaking, the Blackshear place did not allow patrollers on the plantation at which Lu lived; however, because Lu was constantly running off, her master wanted them to make an example out of her.