The law provided slaves with virtually no protection from their masters. On large plantations, this power was delegated to overseers. These men were under considerable pressure from the plantation owners to maximize profits. They did this by bullying the slaves into increasing productivity. The punishments used against slaves judged to be under-performing included the use of the whip. Sometimes slave-owners resorted to mutilating and branding their slaves.
An advertisement was published in The North Carolina Standard on 28th July 1838: “Twenty dollars reward. Runaway from the subscriber, a negro woman, and two children; the woman is tall and black, and a few days before she went off burnt her on the left side of her face with the letter M.” Another newspaper reported that a wealthy man from St. Louis had branded his slave Reuben with the words; “A slave for life.”
An animist woman is held as a slave by a Muslim sultan in Cameroon.