Most slave narratives are anything but unique. Most are a repetitive work that resembles many of the other slave narratives written at the same time. The writer of a slave narrative is bound by his/her situation to give a picture of “slavery as it is.” As such, the writers are careful not to fictionalize, which leads to the distinct form of the slave narratives. This conscious effort not to fictionalize has led to the slave narratives reading as carbon copies of each other. This duplicity of information from narrative to narrative has led to great speculation of the authenticity of each of the slave narratives as an autobiography (Olney).
In the end she is thought of as a "new kind of female hero" (497). She has gone through many hardships and she "articulates her struggle to assert her womanhood" (497). Even with her lack of a higher education, she shows intelligence throughout her writing. She had her own way of getting her points across, one being that a person could not possibly fully understand the degradation of slavery if he/she did not go through it themselves. This is a point within itself because it further relays the fact that slavery was a very horrible, evil and degrading thing.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs strongly speaks to its readers by describing the brutalities of slavery and the way slave owners can destroy peaceful lives. After reading and rereading the story have noticed certain things regarding how Jacobs tries to educate her readers and her intended audience which is the women of the North. As if we do not know enough about how terrible slavery is, this story gives detailed examples of the lives of slaves and provokes an incredible amount of emotions. She uses several tactics in her writing to reach her desired audience and does so very well. The way she wrote the story does not seem as though she is emotionally connected.
Many slaves after all were prevented from learning how to read and write. However the few written accounts available are able to help illustrate the grim reality they went through. These writings can easily be contested with a typical history book which often deals with the problems slavery caused clinically with little detail on how brutal the institution was. To explore the problem of not only revisionist history but of slavery itself we turn to 19th century American writer Fredrick Douglas. Douglas was an escaped slave, and also one of the few that were able to write down and get published his account of his treatment from plantation owners and overseers.
It can be argued that Phillis Wheatley has undoubtedly made significant contributions to literature on a grand scale. At the time that she began to showcase her talent for versifying poems, she was faced with the enslavement of her race. It can be argued to what extent someone is being held in slavery actually enslaved. It was inconceivable that a black slave female could achieve such a level of intellect that she was asked to verify that she actually did write her poems. Wheatley’s works have been critical in contrasting the assumption that African Americans were of inferior intellect.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander is a very poignant piece. Throughout the work Alexander makes it a point to draw parallels between the current judicial systems implementation of declarations coming out of the executive branch and the lack action from the legislative branch to correct the overbroad execution that has ultimately lead to a disproportionate amount of Blacks currently incarcerated. The book was interesting to say the least. I feel as if Alexander did a proper job of laying the historical foundation down for the reader and describing that from the earliest time in American history the Black people were invited into the land merely as a compromise and because the Blacks seemed to be the most economic choice for the furtherance of their motives to develop the country. Alexander did not merely stop at the idea of just telling the reader the Blacks were a better economic move during the foundation of the country instead she went into depth about why other racial groups, such as the Native Americans and the poor Eastern European Whites would not be as easy to assert slavery power over.
Slave Resistance: Enslaved Women in the Old South One of the ways that enslaved men and women retained their dignity during slavery is their resistance against their owners; covertly and overtly. Stephanie M. H. Camp’s book, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, emphasized the way slaves, particularly enslaved women, expressed their own unique forms of resistance. Often, researchers neglect to delve into other forms of resistance aside from obvious ones such as running away or rebellion. Camp utilizes slave narratives and interviews, papers and journals to scrutinize covert forms of resistance that enslaved women had done in the antebellum south. This is shown when she explains how slaves express, using Edward Said’s term, “rival geography” in which they utilize their knowledge and proper usage within and around the plantation space; thus, challenging the control of space, time and movement of southern plantation owners through movement of bodies, objects, and information (Camp 7).
While nineteenth century slave narratives primarily served to educate white audiences about slavery, inciting and engaging their opposition to it, the audience for neo-slave narratives include contemporary black readers who must come to terms with their own personal, ancestral histories of slavery (Vint). Octavian Butler is a well-known author of neo-slave narratives. Her popular novel Kindred is concerned with describing the struggle of a young black woman who is trying to escape the past both literally and figuratively and to gain a higher degree of agency, or the ability to make life choices, in the process. Butler chooses the body as her primary troupe for narrating the multi-faceted struggle of the protagonist to increase her agency (Vint). Kindred relates Dana’s struggle for freedom and self-determination primarily by way of her body.
Narratives written by slaves like Harriet Jacobs were trying to disprove this absurd claim as well as depict just how horrible and inhumane slaves got treated to white Americans. Jacob’s account was, in fact, published the same year the American Civil War began. Considering slavery was a central issue in the war and the myth spread about slaves being happy, it was very noble of her to even include the few accounts of white southerners being compassionate and humane. She could have easily omitted these rare examples of human kindness in her attempt to try to further promote the freedom of all African-Americans, but Jacobs kept her full integrity and was truthful in her account, unlike her earlier
Although the risk for rebellion against slavery was immense, African Americans still attempted to resist within the limits of the institution of slavery. The success of these efforts was highly unlikely as the system of slavery grew more and more, backed by the laws of the land and the ever-growing spread throughout the states. Harriet Jacobs’ overall theme in her autobiography is the realization that the power of slavery proved to be in conquerable from the point of view of the slave.