18. Violence Against Enslaved Individuals

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In the course of carrying out their responsibilities, free and enslaved African Americans interacted with white students in the hotel dining halls, student dormitory rooms, and throughout the Academical Village on a regular basis. On occasion, these daily interactions could and did turn violent. Faculty records document that students resorted to physical violence upon the bodies of free and enslaved laborers for a variety of 'offences,' including insolence, impertinent language or a perceived lack of attention to duties. In particular, enslaved individuals working for hotelkeepers in the dining halls and dormitories faced the greatest threat. Failure to change a plate at the dinner table, or perceived negligence in preparing a dormitory room or changing bed linens could result in a violent interaction. Enslaved individuals who did not speak to white students with respect and deference were also putting themselves at risk of violence. Student on slave violence at the University included strikings and beatings, as well as threats of whippings, and even sexual assault. This physical punishment was carried out with or without the assent of the master. Complaint against a slave for an offense could lead to their removal from duties, or even from the University. Furthermore even when students were judged by faculty to be at fault, their actions were only reprimanded and very rarely led to suspension.

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