Celia, a Slave

by

Melton McLaurin

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Celia, a Slave can help.

Robert Newsom Character Analysis

Robert Newsom is a prosperous farmer living in Callaway County, Missouri, in the 1850s. He’s typical of the Callaway community: he’s a farmer, he’s migrated to Missouri from the eastern United States, and he owns a small number of slaves. Robert is also a cruel and brutal man: after the death of his wife, he purchases a teenaged slave named Celia, and begins raping her regularly. Disturbingly, Robert’s behavior was all-too common during the antebellum period: slave owners enjoyed virtually unchecked power over their slaves, who were, legally speaking, their property. Frightened of Robert, and unwilling to endure more sexual assault, Celia kills Robert one night, setting in motion the events of McLaurin’s book.

Robert Newsom Quotes in Celia, a Slave

The Celia, a Slave quotes below are all either spoken by Robert Newsom or refer to Robert Newsom. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Historical Silence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Avon Books edition of Celia, a Slave published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Throughout the antebellum era, while Callaway County's promise to settlers such as Robert Newsom of a better life in a relatively egalitarian white society was fulfilled, it would have been obvious to Newsom and others that the promise was more amply fulfilled for those who held slaves than for those who did not.

Related Characters: Robert Newsom
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

She was the slave Celia, who, when she arrived in 1850, was approximately fourteen years old, about the same age as Newsom's daughter Mary. Practically nothing is known about Celia's life before her arrival at the Newsom farm.

Related Characters: Celia, Robert Newsom
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

A healthy sixty years of age, Newsom needed more than a hostess and manager of household affairs; he required a sexual partner. Newsom seems to have deliberately chosen to purchase a young slave girl to fulfill this role, a choice made the more convenient by the ability to present the girl as a domestic servant purchased for the benefit of his daughters.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Anger and resentment was a characteristic response of white women in slaveholding households when faced with the possibility of a relationship between a male in the household and a female slave. Frequently, however, southern white women were powerless to prevent the actions of male family members, a circumstance that sometimes led them to vent their anger at white males upon the slave. Certainly neither Mary nor Virginia was in a position to change her father's conduct toward his slave, even had she so desired. Mary was still an adolescent herself, totally dependent upon her father, and Virginia had three children of her own to consider.

Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Perhaps they escaped their dilemma through a process of rationalization, as a historian of slavery recently has suggested many plantation women did, viewing Celia as the dark, sensual temptress who seduced their father.

Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Afraid that an angered Newsom would harm her, Celia raised the club with both hands and once again brought it crashing down on Newsom's skull. With the second blow the old man fell, dead, to the floor.

Related Characters: Celia, Robert Newsom
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

The response of the six inquest jurors to the testimony presented was predictable. After hearing the witnesses, the jurors quickly arrived at the finding that there was probable cause to arrest Celia and charge her with the murder of Robert Newsom.

Related Characters: Celia, Robert Newsom
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Whether Celia's fourth, and emphatic, denial convinced Jefferson Jones that neither George nor anyone else had helped her kill Newsom cannot be ascertained from the evidence. What is clear is that Jones stopped his questioning at this point, probably convinced either that Celia was telling the truth or that it was unlikely that she would implicate George or anyone else under any circumstances.

Related Characters: Celia, Robert Newsom, George, Jefferson Jones
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Jameson's cross-examination quickly established a key element of a planned defense that became fully evident only after all testimony had been heard. He immediately focused on the sexual nature of the relationship between Celia and Newsom, forcing Jones to admit that Celia had told him that Newsom had raped her on the return trip from Audrain County immediately after his purchase of her, that he had continued to demand sexual favors of her throughout the years she resided on the Newsom farm, and that he had fathered her children.

Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Celia, a Slave LitChart as a printable PDF.
Celia, a Slave PDF

Robert Newsom Character Timeline in Celia, a Slave

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Newsom appears in Celia, a Slave. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Beginnings
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
The year is 1850, and Robert Newsom is a farmer living in Callaway County, Missouri. He’s a father and a proud,... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
By 1822, Robert Newsom and his family were living in Callaway County, Missouri. Newsom purchased fertile land near... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...people in the area, and their lands tend to be the most productive by far. Robert Newsom went to Missouri in search of a better life. Every single day he spends... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
By 1855, Robert Newsom is a successful man. He owns hundreds of acres, and sells his crops at... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
At the time, Robert lives with his daughter Virginia, for reasons that have been lost to history, though it’s... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
At the time when Celia is living with Robert, Callaway has become a large community. There’s an influential Presbyterian church located in the county,... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
John Jameson and Robert Newsom are two prosperous, happy men, who seem to be pillars of their community. But... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Crime
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...slaves made up nearly half of the Callaway population. Farmers invested money in purchasing slaves—and Robert Newsom was no exception. (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
Of Robert’s five slaves, one is a young boy. It’s unclear why Robert purchases the child, but... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
At the time when Robert buys Celia, Missouri is engaged in another bitter debate over the expansion of slavery. Southerners,... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Robert Newsom buys Celia when she’s fourteen years old. As soon as he’s brought her back... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Undoubtedly, Celia is devastated by Robert’s savage sexual acts. Modern research suggests that rape victims go through many different responses to... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...the “possibility of a relationship between a male in the household and a female slave.” Robert’s son, David Newsom, who’s just married, and lives nearby, may have hoped to rape Celia,... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...At some point, George tells Celia that she has to break off her “affair” with Robert. (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...Celia becomes pregnant with another child. However, she’s unsure whether the child is George’s or Robert’s. Therefore, George faces a challenge. He can confront Robert and tell him to stop raping... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Celia now faces her own challenge. She has no power whatsoever over Robert Newsom, and she has no contacts outside the farm. Whatever she does—even if she does... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
It’s highly unlikely that either Newsom woman speaks to Robert—after all, they’re almost as dependent on Robert as Celia is. Most likely, they choose to... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Some time shortly before June 23, 1855, Celia confronts Robert Newsom directly. She tells him that he must stop raping her, but doesn’t say that... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...women retire to their bedrooms, wishing their father goodnight before they do. Around ten pm, Robert Newsom walks over to Celia’s cabin, where Celia is sleeping with her children. What happens... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
Celia’s first reaction is probably to panic—she knows she’ll probably be hanged for killing Robert Newsom. But then, she decides on a plan: she’ll burn Robert’s body in her fireplace,... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
The next morning, the Newsom family finds that Robert is missing. Celia notices Robert’s grandson, James Coffee Waynescot, and says she’ll give him a... (full context)
Chapter 3: Inquisition
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
On the morning on June 24, 1855, Virginia Newsom and Mary Newsom notice that Robert Newsom is missing. They search around the farm and find nothing. Then they call their... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
William Powell, one of Robert Newsom’s neighbors, and the self-appointed leader of the search party, finds George and demands information.... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
George is understandably frightened when Powell demands information about Robert Newsom. He wants to protect Celia, but he also fears for his own safety. George... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
William Powell finds Celia and immediately confronts her about Robert’s disappearance. To his disappointment, Celia doesn’t crack under pressure: she claims she knows nothing about... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...in search of fertile land. It’s likely that most or all of these jurors knew Robert Newsom personally. (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...Coffee Waynescot testifies that he moves the ashes from Celia’s fire. No other member of Robert Newsom’s family testifies. Celia testifies that she killed Robert and burned the body. However, she... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
The local newspapers describe Robert Newsom’s murder as a horrific crime: Robert is characterized as an old man who lives... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...a precarious situation. Even though Celia has confessed, the Newsom family suspects him of killing Robert. His survival is dependent on Celia taking sole blame for the murder. But he knows... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...circumstantial evidence that Celia didn’t act alone, considering that Celia is a young teenager and Robert was a grown man. Furthermore, some reporters find it unlikely that Celia could have disposed... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
During the investigation, Jefferson Jones asks Celia to tell the whole truth. Celia explains that Robert Newsom regularly raped her, and that she’d threatened to hurt him if he proceeded to... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Trial
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...Jones reports that, during his interview with Celia, Celia claimed she’d had “sexual intercourse” with Robert Newsom, and that she’d tried to end the sexual relationship with Newsom. When Jameson cross-examines... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...on the facts of the murder, rather than asking questions about why Celia would kill Robert Newsom. In cross-examination, Jameson presses Virginia to admit that Celia was pregnant and sick in... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...he gathered the ashes of his own grandfather. Jameson’s cross-examination is quick, and doesn’t mention Robert Newsom’s rape. (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
The next witness, William Powell, describes how Robert Newsom’s bones were discovered the day after the killing. In cross-examination, Jameson asks Powell if... (full context)
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...are doctors who confirm that the ashes found in Celia’s fireplace most likely belonged to Robert Newsom. The state introduces into evidence Celia’s signed confession of the murder, and the prosecution... (full context)
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...legal precedent for slaves using deadly force for self-preservation. Shoatman also testifies that Celia struck Robert Newsom to stop him from raping her, not to kill him. This testimony is stricken... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...that Celia acted on the legal right to repel her master’s sexual advances, and that Robert Newsom regularly raped her. The energy and inventiveness with which James has presented his case... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Verdict
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...of not guilty unless it can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Celia willfully killed Robert Newsom. Furthermore, the defense argues that Robert’s legal ownership of Celia didn’t entitle him to... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...“acted in self-defense.” However, the prosecution has already requested that the jurors be instructed that Robert Newsom made no threats to Celia’s life, meaning that its instruction on self-defense is a... (full context)
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...he reads the jury’s verdict: Celia will be hanged to death as punishment for murdering Robert Newsom. (full context)
Chapter 7: Final Disposition
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...For the last time, she denies that she had any assistance in the killing of Robert Newsom. However, she elaborates on her earlier answers and says that “the devil got into... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
...buried—just as the early events of her life are unknown, so are her final whereabouts. Robert Newsom is interred in the family cemetery, next to his wife, and his grave still... (full context)