Media Worksheet

The Bell Rack (1845)

This device, the bell rack, was used to guard a runaway slave. If the slave tried to run from his or her captors, the hanging bell would ring to alert the master. As you examine the image, consider what the need for such devices might tell us about the experience of slavery, the seriousness of the problem of runaway slaves, and the rights of slaves who ran afoul of their masters or governmental authorities.

The bell rack. Contraption used by an Alabama slave owner to guard a runaway slave. This rack was originally topped by a bell which rang when the runaway attempted to leave the road and go through foliage or trees. It was attached around the neck as shown in the picture. A belt was passed through the loop at the bottom to hold the iron rod firmly fastened to the waist of the wearer. In the accompanying photograph Richbourg Gailliard, assistant to the director of the Federal Museum and also a well-known young Mobil artist, poses to show the use made of the bell rack.