Deborah Gray White’s Ar’n’t I a Woman?

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Deborah Gray White’s Ar’n’t I a Woman? details the grueling experiences of the African American female slaves on Southern plantations. White resented the fact that African American women were nearly invisible throughout historical text, because many historians failed to see them as important contributors to America’s social, economic, or political development (3). Despite limited historical sources, she was determined to establish the African American woman as an intricate part of American history, and thus, White first published her novel in 1985. However, the novel has since been revised to include newly revealed sources that have been worked into the novel. Ar’n’t I a Woman? presents African American females’ struggle with race and gender through the years of slavery and Reconstruction. The novel also depicts the courage behind the female slave resistance to the sexual, racial, and psychological subjugation they faced at the hands of slave masters and their wives. The study argues that “slave women were not submissive, subordinate, or prudish and that they were not expected to be (22).” Essentially, White declares the unique and complex nature of the prejudices endured by African American females, and contends that the oppression of their community were unlike those of the black male or white female communities.

In the novel, the author proposes that the African American female slave’s need to overcome three obstacles was what unavoidably separated her from the rest of society; she was black, female, and a slave, in a white male dominating society. The novel “locates black women at the intersection of racial and sexual ideologies and politics (12).” White begins by illustrating the Europeans’ two major stereotypes o...

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...tive on the psychological damages of slavery. White believes “pairing the psychological with the enslaved woman’s means of survival has helped us analyze many patterns that emerged after slavery (10).”

I recommend Ar’n’t I a Woman? to anyone, of any race, of either sex, and with any interests, because I believe this book has something to offer everyone. White’s writing has the power to totally transform her readers’ understanding, emotions, and opinions. After reading the novel, I will never again view the institution of slavery the same way. If this book does not completely change your opinion of slavery and leave you with a richer appreciation for the resilience demonstrated by the female slaves, then you have not really read it! Alexandra the Great has spoken, therefore, it is official, Deborah Gray White’s Ar’n’t I a Woman? is a literary masterpiece!

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