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.

Other games included Ole Molly Bright in which children would make stories up about the moon. Children would engage in ball games like Shinny, or Rolly Hole, which later evolved into the game of hockey.

Kids, especially girls, played non-competitive games like jump rope. It was important that the slaves work together and not build competition among them, perhaps to not appear to be stronger than the other in case of sale or barter with other plantations.

Children of all sizes kept busy with both good and bad means of entertainment. Older kids might sneak away and gamble by playing craps or perhaps smut. Smut was similar to a card game with the exception that various grains of corn with marks were used to distinguish the suit and numbers.

Some of the items children would amuse themselves with were stick horses, moon winders, tops and drums.

While the kids were given small tasks to complete, which gave them time for creative games, they were subjected to unfair games with the white children of the big house. Perhaps they were “locked in jail” or provoked to play games that required more skill than they were allowed to acquire as slaves.

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3 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Plantation Games

  1. Tina on said:

    A lot of these games we played when we kids too. I was born in 1962 to a share cropper and migrant worker family. Our skin isn’t black either. Not only did the black children and families have it rough. I don’t agree with the slavery part of course. My family being of white heritage was not subjected to the “slavery” but we were dirt poor. I still am, I am under the poverty level……..2013. Some things never change.

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