The dichotomy between those that are enslaved and those that are free is a very narrow one indeed. Arguably, the distance between the two is spanned only by an individual’s capacity to realize his innate humanity. For example, a slave that has only known the taste of the whip and the bite of shackles may be more in touch with his humanity than a poor, free man who has reached the pit of human degradation. Likewise an enterprising individual never encumbered by woes of abolition could possibly have a greater understanding of the value of life than a lowly slave. In 1859, Harriet E. Wilson attempts to explore this concept in her work entitled, Our Nig, or the Sketches from the Life of a Free Black. As the title proclaims, Our Nig is an account of the life of Frado, a free-born mulatto girl, who is abandoned by her mother and left to a life of servitude. The irony that is Frado’s life lies in the reality that while she is a free black living in the North, her lifestyle seems to closely resemble that of her enslaved counterparts in the South. In retrospect, however, many Southern slaves were able to appreciate elements of freedom, both mental and physical, that Frado, a free black, was never allotted.
Between 1619 and 1862 it was very common to come across free men or enslaved blacks in America, however, it was something special to encounter a man both free and black during this time. Although, as Frado soon learned, “ Freedom from slavery did not mean equality of citizenship” ( Higginbotham 160). The mindset of the elite, white ruling class was to discourage free blacks in every conceivable way, “ not only have we created laws to expel them at will, but we hamper them in a thousand ways.” ( Tocquville). The communities of free A...
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...riet Wilson’s Our Nig, was one such individual who benefited from birth the fruits of freedom. However, Frado never had the opportunity to partake because she found herself in bondage, stripped of contact with her kind and broken in spirit, destitute and envious of slaves.
Franklin, John Hope, and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. From Slavery to Freedom. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.
The Great Debaters. Dir. Denzel Washington. Perf. Denzel Washington, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollet. Lions Gate, 2007.
Tocqueville, Alexis De, Harvey Claflin Mansfield, and Delba Winthrop. Democracy in America. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000. Print.
Wilson, Harriet E., and Henry Louis. Gates. Our Nig, Or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black: in a Two-story White House, North : Showing That Slavery's Shadows Fall Even There. New York: Vintage, 2002. Print.