How did the slaves cope with slavery? How does anybody or race cope with unfair treatment, imprisonment, and being made to do forced labour? How did the Jewish People cope with the Germans under Hitler? How do political prisoners survive and cope? They all cope through a variety of ways and means, often different depending on the person and the individual situation.
Some cope by basically shutting down, losing all focus and being. These were the really badly treated slaves with no hope, even if they escaped and went back home they knew they would be treated no better and often treated even worse. They became automatons, just doing a job and no longer thinking about anything. They often didn't last long, dying of despair and carelessness due to accidents. Some would "cope" by taking the ultimate escape, suicide.
Then there were the ones that openly revolted, fighting what had been done, sometimes trying to kill their owners. They were often either killed or eventually beaten into submission, but sometimes escaping. Frequently they "went underground", learning that open revolt wouldn't work but little things could be done. Stealing food and items to make their life easier; doing things to make their owner's lives more miserable.
Some slaves coped by searching out other slaves with either similar backgrounds or interests and then developing social ties. They did their work, but also maintained their previous culture through music, stories and, in some cases, religion. Thus Obeah or Voodoo rose up and gave spiritual comfort in the 1700's. Many tried adopting the religion of their owners, hoping to better understand what had happened to them and also gain respect.
Dreaming was also a means of coping, dreaming of a better life and better times. Dreamers did exist amongst the slaves, sharing hopes and aspiration with other slaves. Their dreams of freedom were what sustained them.
Some slaves coped by concentrating on their work and getting educated. They were trying to learn valuable skills and doing the best that could be done. They felt that by doing this they would be treated better and eventually obtain their freedom or at least a better life. These were often allowed more freedom and belongings that those that revolted.
One must realise that the slaves were the poorest of the poor, considered the bottom of society. They survived like all poor and mistreated have survived, the best they could and in a variety of ways. The slaves that closed down, usually didn't last, but all the others are why slaves eventually became free. The dreamers gave hope, the cultural preservation provided continuity, the education gave means while the "revolters" provided drive and energy. Almost all the ways of coping worked and combined to make freedom!