8 Disturbing Images of Instruments of Torture Used on Black People

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torture cotton screw

Cotton screw

Moses Roper, a Black man who was born into bondage in North Carolina and eventually escaped slavery in 1835, recounted the torture endured in punishment for running away in “Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper, from American Slavery.”

A machine used for packing cotton became an instrument of punishment. When Roper, who had many attempts to escape the South Carolina plantation on which he’d been enslaved, ran away yet another time, among the “instruments of torture” applied to him was the “cotton screw,” a machine used for packing and pressing cotton.

Roper recalled: “He hung me up by the hands at letter a, a horse moving round the screw e* (*This screw is sometimes moved round by hand, when there is a handle on it. The screw is made with wood, a large tree cut down, and carved in the shape of a screw), and carrying it up and down, and pressing the block e into the box d, into which the cotton is put. … I was carried up ten feet from the ground, when Mr. Gooch … let me rest for five minutes, then carried me round again, after which, he let me down and put me into the box d and shut me down in it for about ten minutes.”

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