Antebellum Slave Culture Essay

Antebellum Slave Culture Essay

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Since the late 1960s, ante-bellum slave narratives have experienced a
renaissance as dozens of the thousands still extant have been reprinted and as
scholars have published major works on the sources, art, and developmentof the
narratives; the people who produced them; and their on-going influence on later
work. Drawing upon slave narratives as well among other sources, John
Blassingame's The Slave Community (1972), for example, drew attention to the
complex social interactions developed in antebellum slave culture. Examining
the milieu that spawned the narratives and their development, and providing
insights into what the narratives can tell about slavery as well as what they omit,
Frances Smith Foster's Witnessing Slavery (1979) gave readers a book-length
analysis of the genre. Robert B. Stepto's From Behind the Veil (1979) situated
slave narratives at the center of African-American written narrative. John Sekora
and Darwin Turner's collection of essays, The Art of the Slave Narrative (1982),
focused closer attention on how the narratives achieved their rhetorical effects.
In The Slave's Narrative (1985), Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
gathered excerpts from some of the best-known narratives and essays about the
narratives as history and autobiographical literature. William L. Andrews's To
Tell a Free Story (1987) examined the narratives as public autobiographies, at
once exploring and demanding freedom. Today, hardly a book is published on
American autobiography without a chapter on slave narratives. Not only do
scholars writing about African-American literature often refer to the slave
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... middle of paper ...

...ased; unlike the narratives written
by men, women's narratives do not emphasize this factor. While male narrators
accentuate the role of literacy, females stress the importance of relationships.
Given the importance of relationships in the lives of most women, this is hardly
surprising. Through their narratives, both male and female fugitives and exslaves
strove to counter the racial stereotypes that bound them even in "free"
societies. Black men and women, however, faced different stereotypes. Black
men combated the stereotype that they were "boys" while black women contested
the idea that they were either helpless victims or whores. For a male fugitive,
public discourse served to claim his place among men; for a female her relationships—
as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend—demonstrated her womanliness
and her shared roles with women readers.

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