Aside from what the owners and overseers thought, slaves lived their own lives. They made friends, fell in love, played and prayed, sang, told stories, and engaged in the necessary chores of day to day living. These things as well as family and religion were also important to the slaves. Throughout the South, the slave owners defined the living arrangements of slaves. Most slaves lived together in nuclear families with a mother, father, and children (Phillips 1929, 14).

The stability of the slave family was often challenged due to various reasons: no state law recognized marriage among slaves, masters rather than parents had legal authority over slave children and the possibility of forced separation, through slave trade or sale were an issue of every slave family. These separations were especially frequent in the slave-exporting states of the upper South (Phillips 1929, 16). However, the most effective way of controlling slaves was the threat of sale. Slaves feared the reality of such a suggestion more than any form of punishment.

They could endure the pain of whipping, but it was more difficult to suffer the grave psychological injuries that stemmed from the severance of familiar bonds (Phillips 1929, 44). Parents who were sold would worry about the welfare of children growing up without a mother and a father. Slave men and women heard terrifying stories from masters about the dangers of life in other states or in other towns where they might be sold. However, despite their severe status, families served as the slaves' most basic refuge, the part of their private lives that owners could never fully control. Religion also served as a refuge for slaves.

African slaves usually remained close to their native religions, and many slave owners grew suspicious of those who looked to convert their slaves to Christianity, partly because they were scared that converted slaves would have to be freed. Christianity was increasingly central to the slaves' cultural lives (Phillips 1929, 20). Many slaves converted during Christian revivals that swept through the South in the late 18 th and early 19 th centuries, where Baptists and Methodists denomination became most popular among slaves. Some masters encouraged their slaves to come to the white church where they sat in slave galleries and received advice about being obedient to their masters. For those slaves who did not get invited to church with their masters, developed a so-called "invisible" church controlled by the slaves.

Not all slaves had access to these "invisible" churches, but those that had the opportunity to attend used it as a comfort in a hostile world (Phillips 1929, 22).