Plantation Games: How Slave Children Used Their Creativity to Entertain Themselves


There were several games that black children of the plantation played even in the midst of oppression. The children had to play with things found in nature or in the slave quarters rather than expensive dolls or board games.



They played games like Hide the Switch. A child would hide a branch and the first child that found it would smack the others with it and hide it for the next child. Another game was Bob A Needle. Children would sit in a circle and pass a needle or a needle case behind their backs while singing. Whoever held the needle by the end of the song was “it.”


Other plantation games were Haley Over or Anti-Over, a game in which children divided into two groups and stood on each side of a building. It was, in a way, like volleyball, with the building serving as a net. One child tossed a ball over the building and the children in the other group tried to catch it. Whoever caught it ran around to the other side and threw it to try to hit one of the kids from the first group with the ball, like the present game Dodge Ball.  If you got hit with the ball, you were “out.”


Black children in the fields also played clapping games like Miss Mary Mack, which lasted through generations of children on the playground. Children also engaged in role-play games where they would re-enact scenes from a funeral, slave auctions, family gatherings and baptisms. Some of these games would involve the children of the slave owners.


Written by PH

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