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How Thabs Deconstructed The Myth Of Race By Harriet Jacobs

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Biological or an Essence? How Harriet Jacobs Deconstructed the Myth of Race A prevalent belief during the Enlightenment, a time of great learning and science, was that Africans were an inhumane species, only fit for slavery. Race determined slavery, it was treated as a biological essence that accounted for unbridgeable cultural differences. Race also determined the “whiteness” or “otherness” of an individual (Blevins-Faery 10).The differences Europeans observed in Africans left them to believe African cultures were inferior, attributing the differences to skin color. To counter the idea that slaves were an inferior species, ex-slaves began to write narratives about experiences, proving they were humanly equals to whites. Harriet Jacobs…show more content…
As part of the dark other’s “racial character”, a set of characteristics determined by race, these individuals were dumb, unable to be self-sufficient and required a caretaker (Gates 5). Slavery was the solution, whites were able to control slaves while making a profit. The slave owners presented themselves as benevolent caretakers of a needy race. Jacobs includes a quote from Senator Brown, who proclaims slavery as “A great, moral, social, and political blessing, a blessing to the master, and a blessing to the slave” (Jacobs 101). Slavery was considered a blessing as it isolated slaves from society while keeping them under the control of an overseer. The work slaves did on plantations caused the southern economy to boom, blessing many whites with a higher standard of living. This separate society allowed masters to conceal the realities of slavery, perpetuating the stereotype that blacks were in need of supervision. Masters presented critics with a patriarchal institution, acting as a father figure over slaves. He hypnotized them with his wealth, showcased the favored slaves with the best quality of living, and taught slaves when offered freedom to reply “O no masa” (64). This demonstrated to northerners that slavery was beneficial to slaves, providing them with a happy home and caretaker while also aiding the…show more content…
During the era of slavery there existed the Cult of True Womanhood, which stated a respectable woman had the traits of purity, piousness, and domesticity. In her narrative, Jacobs appeals to white female readers by recounting her desires to follow the true womanhood ideals. In one passage, Jacobs demonstrates these desires when describing Mrs. Durham “She was surrounded by her husband and children in a home made sacred by protecting laws I thought of my own children and sighed” (133). For any nineteenth century woman this was her aspiration, including Jacobs, but slavery had denied it for her. Any white woman reading this passage realized that Jacobs was a reasonable woman with the same goals. Jacobs creates a new identity by assimilating into non-racial society based on similarity rather than