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  1. 1. LIT 325 Christina Brownell Senior Instructor Cambridge College SESSION III Literature of Slavery and Freedom
  2. 2. Self and Identity "Our self and our identity are like a lock and key, inter-locked in a specific relationship which makes us see the world in a certain way. Some of the greatest thinkers have observed this relationship and articulated in memorable ways" (Nomi -Brooklyn Public Library blog)
  3. 3. <ul><li>&quot;The question is not what you look at, but what you see.&quot; ~Henry David Thoreau </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves&quot; ~Carl Jung </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.&quot; ~Anais Nin </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;People only see what they are prepared to see&quot; ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson </li></ul>Think about the following:
  4. 4. A Mercy by Toni Morrison A Mercy is told primarily through the distinctive narrative voices of Florens, Lina, Jacob, Rebekka, Sorrow, and Florens' mother. What do these characters reveal about themselves through the way they speak?
  5. 5. Last Week's Reading Assignment: Think about: Toni Morrison has gathered together an unusual collection of characters in this story. These characters have a unique societal structure and relationship. What holds it together or breaks it apart? Does this society work? Why, or why not?
  6. 6. Literature of Slavery and Freedom
  7. 7. <ul><li>Resistance to human tyranny </li></ul><ul><li>Dedication to human dignity </li></ul><ul><li>Special mission to articulate the birthright of African Americans as American citizens </li></ul><ul><li>Black writers used concepts from Christian gospel </li></ul><ul><li>African American writers of this time concerned with gaining popular Christian readership </li></ul><ul><li>Their entry into the literary scene had enormous impact </li></ul><ul><li>African Amreican literature challenged the idea that whites could separate religion and social / political beliefs </li></ul>Religious and Political Mission of African American Literature
  8. 8. <ul><li>Wrote the first African American work of literature </li></ul><ul><li>Showed religion more than politics </li></ul><ul><li>Book of poems that challenged the idea that only God considered blacks equal. </li></ul><ul><li>Gave a more holistic view of the relationship between spiritual and political </li></ul><ul><li>Liberty was both civil and religious: &quot;There is little if any enjoyment of one without the other.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>She inspired future civil rights agitators- God supports eternal and earthly redemption of black people </li></ul>Phillis Wheatley
  9. 9. <ul><li>Early African American writers explored the connection between the humanitarian ideals of Christianity and the humantarian ideals of the Declaration of Independence </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Freedom&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>African American writers demonstrated the gross inconsistency and irony of slavery as an American institution. </li></ul><ul><li>No matter what format was used, all literature by black writers of the pre-Civil war period focused on the abolition of slavery and the promotion of blacks to the same status as whites socially and culturally </li></ul>Christianity and the Declaration of Independence
  10. 10. History of Early Slave Trade Slavery in America
  11. 11. <ul><li>Early writers and advocates of freedom studied the long history of slavery in the world --Greece, Rome, Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>Historians assert that white Christian slaveholders were the most hypocritical and inhumane </li></ul><ul><li>Portuguese mariners traded with West African chieftains for prisoners of war, as an established tradition in Africa- </li></ul><ul><li>With discovery of new world (Central America) indigenous people used as compulsory work force </li></ul><ul><li>Missionaries rejected this and recommended the enslavement of Africans instead </li></ul><ul><li>By the time the system was aboished in late 19th c, at least 10 million Africans had been brought to the new world against their will </li></ul>The World of Slavery
  12. 12. <ul><li>Not slaves but explorers </li></ul><ul><li>Estevanico (1539) opened up New Mexico and Arizona for Spain </li></ul><ul><li>Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (1745) founded trading post in Lake Michigan </li></ul><ul><li>Jamestown 1619 - first Africans in N.A.(20)- arrived on Dutch slave ship </li></ul><ul><li>Not considered slaves but indentured servants who could become free after a set number of years </li></ul><ul><li>By 1700 the plantation development in Virginia had grown so that the work force needed to be increased and controlled </li></ul><ul><li>Indentured servants now became slaves purchased for life </li></ul><ul><li>This ensured the prosperity of the South </li></ul>First Blacks in North America
  13. 13. <ul><li>New system of slavery became a &quot;social death&quot; for Africans </li></ul><ul><li>The system tried to prevent the African slave from keeping old identities, culture and customs, or establishing any new ones </li></ul><ul><li>Only could behave in ways acceptable to new masters / oppressors </li></ul><ul><li>Instead of an individual identity, slavery was designed to create a social &quot;non-person&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>By legal definition, they could not have family, personal honor, community, past or future, or any human ties </li></ul><ul><li>Completely bound and dependent on master </li></ul><ul><li>Contradiction: New world built on concept of self-reliance and independence, and those building it were being de-humanized </li></ul>Conditions of Slavery
  14. 14. Slavery and American Racism
  15. 15. <ul><li>Uniquely oppressive </li></ul><ul><li>Insisted that enslavement was a Natural and Proper condition for certain races of people </li></ul><ul><li>Noted philosophers of the time had theories validating this idea (Kant, Hegel, and Hume) </li></ul><ul><li>External differences such as hair, color, features, indicated internal differences such as intelligence, morality, spirituality </li></ul>American Slavery
  16. 16. <ul><li>Thomas Jefferson stated that differences were so deep that they could not be changed </li></ul><ul><li>Complete separation of the races was needed, with whites in power until blacks could be removed from the country </li></ul><ul><li>Jefferson wrote &quot;Notes on the State of Virginia&quot; in 1787, condemned slavery but was also a statement on racism </li></ul><ul><li>Celebrated white physical attributes as &quot;clarity&quot; and superior </li></ul><ul><li>Black described as an &quot;immovable veil covering emotion&quot; - alien and threatening </li></ul><ul><li>Followers of Jefferson used this argument to continue the system of slavery </li></ul><ul><li>It was argued that these differences could only be controlled by slavery </li></ul>Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
  17. 17. Resistance to Slavery and Racism
  18. 18. <ul><li>1787 - Compromise between North and South in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for the distribution of taxes and the members of the House of Reps </li></ul><ul><li>Gave South more power because slaves were counted but could not vote </li></ul><ul><li>Quakers in PA and NY called for gradual abolition of slavery </li></ul><ul><li>Vermont banned slavery in 1777 </li></ul><ul><li>PA 1780, MA 1780, RI 1784, CT 1784, NY 1799, NJ 1804 </li></ul><ul><li>1807 Congress outlawed African slave trade, not internal </li></ul><ul><li>Early 1800s Northern publications criticized Southern slavery </li></ul>National Politics
  19. 19. <ul><li>Summer 1831 black preacher Nat Turner initiated slave rebellion </li></ul><ul><li>Felt he was called upon by God to lead blacks to freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Led 60 - 80 followers to the county seat to seize the arsenal but they were apprehended and scattered </li></ul><ul><li>Turner's army executed 60 whites including Turner's master </li></ul><ul><li>Turner was captured in late October 1831 </li></ul><ul><li>In jail he dictated a narrative &quot;Confessions of Nat Turner&quot; - 50,000 copies printed </li></ul><ul><li>Most successful slave revolt in history </li></ul><ul><li>Revolt made southern slaveholders nervous and coused more strict and repressive restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Fugitive Slave Law&quot; 1850 </li></ul>Nat Turner
  20. 20. Abolitionism and the Slave Narrative
  21. 21. <ul><li>Nat Turner rebellion and Fugitive Slave Law caused northerners to become even more opposed to slavery </li></ul><ul><li>William Lloyd Garrison - white journalist and anti-slavery crusader demanded immediate end of slavery in U.S. </li></ul><ul><li>This galvanized concern for slaves- their stories were used to document their inhumane treatment --The Fugitive Slave Narrative </li></ul><ul><li>From 1830 to end of slavery era, this narrative form dominated the literary landscape of Black America </li></ul><ul><li>More of these narratives were written than any other publications or novels by African Americans </li></ul><ul><li>6,000 slaves told their stories; more than 100 books published </li></ul><ul><li>Most of the prominent black literary figures launched their careers through these narratives </li></ul>The Slave Narrative
  22. 22. &quot;Black Message inside a White Envelope&quot;
  23. 23. <ul><li>Introduction and sometimes appendix written by whites to attest to reliability of narration and character of narrator </li></ul><ul><li>Showed abomination of slavery </li></ul><ul><li>Slave narrator describes &quot;hell on earth&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Describes passage to freedom from South to North </li></ul><ul><li>Personal crisis as prelude to escape </li></ul><ul><li>Faith in God, commitment to liberty and freedom and anti-slavery activism </li></ul><ul><li>Sold at anti-slavery meetings and throughout world (Romantic Literary Period) </li></ul>Structure of the Narrative
  24. 24. 1845 The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
  25. 25. <ul><li>Authored his own story - did not use white editor </li></ul><ul><li>Never had a day of school but wanted to write his story in his own way </li></ul><ul><li>Had been an abolitionist lecturer for years </li></ul><ul><li>Set a new standard for narratives - &quot;Written by Himself&quot; meant author was independent </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporated typical African American themes from folk literature, Bible, and other traditional storytelling styles --copied by other slave narrators </li></ul><ul><li>These narratives became more important as political and social tension rising in country </li></ul>Frederick Douglass
  26. 26. 1861 Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
  27. 27. <ul><li>First African American female slave to author her own narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Used a pen name in fear of retribution </li></ul><ul><li>Unrestrained honesty describing sexual exploitation of black women as another form of oppression </li></ul><ul><li>Countered the image of the female victim by showing how she fought back to gain freedom for herself and her children </li></ul><ul><li>Enriched African American literature with new model of female self expression and heroism </li></ul>Harriet Jacobs
  28. 28. <ul><li>Engraved portrait signed by narrator </li></ul><ul><li>Title page with claim &quot;Written by Himself&quot; or similar </li></ul><ul><li>Testimonials written by white abolitionists, or white editor </li></ul><ul><li>Poetic epigraph </li></ul><ul><li>Actual Narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix with bill of sale, newspaper items... </li></ul>Characteristics of Slave Narratives
  29. 29. <ul><li>Begins with &quot;I was born...&quot; - place not date </li></ul><ul><li>Sketchy description of parentage - white father </li></ul><ul><li>Cruel master, mistress or overseer/ whippings often of women </li></ul><ul><li>Account of a strong hardworking slave who refuses to be whipped </li></ul><ul><li>Barriers against slave literacy </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Christian&quot; slaveholders more cruel than others </li></ul><ul><li>Description of amount and kind of food and clothing given to slaves </li></ul><ul><li>Description of work, patterns of day, week year </li></ul>Actual Narrative
  30. 30. <ul><li>Accounts of slave auctions- distraught mothers and children being separated </li></ul><ul><li>Failed attempts to escape and pursuit by men and dogs </li></ul><ul><li>Successful attempts guided by North Star and helped by Quakers </li></ul><ul><li>Taking of new last name with new identity as free man - keeping of first name to continue individual identity </li></ul><ul><li>Reflections on slavery </li></ul>Additional...
  31. 31. Importance of Slave Narratives Slave and ex-slave narratives are important not only for what they tell us about African American history and literature, but also because they reveal to us the complexities of the dialogue between whites and blacks in this country in the last two centuries.

Notas do Editor

  • Most whites were content with the idea of the equality of whites and blacks in the eyes of God but not in earthly societal order. Not in favor of advancement of black people. They used the concept of the universality of the brotherhood of man in their writing, which made it less confrontation to white prejudice and anxiety. This entry into the literary scene for African Americans had great impact by letting white readers know that they had stories to tell and feelings to voice. The fact that these black writers were accomplished literary figures contested the long held belief that blacks were not capable of literary expression. This addressed the idea that mastery of thought and expression meant that blacks could be given a place of respect in white civilization.
  • Fugitive Slave law caused more antagonism between north and south and a power struggle was beginning. This law required the return of runaway slaves to their masters.