The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs Essay

The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs Essay

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In Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, personal accounts that detail the ins-and-outs of the system of slavery show readers truly how monstrous and oppressive slavery is. Families are torn apart, lives are ruined, and slaves are tortured both physically and mentally. The white slaveholders of the South manipulate and take advantage of their slaves at every possible occasion. Nothing is left untouched by the gnarled claws of slavery: even God and religion become tainted. As Jacobs’ account reveals, whites control the religious institutions of the South, and in doing so, forge religion as a tool used to perpetuate slavery, the very system it ought to condemn. The irony exposed in Jacobs’ writings serves to show how desperate the slaveholders are to maintain their power, and how this desperation reveals the depravity of slavery.
The white population of the South has nearly complete control over religious institutions, including how they reach slave audiences. The cycle of religious control begins with denying slaves access to education. If they cannot go directly to the source (i.e., read the Bible), slaves are dependent on whites to deliver the word of God. This issue is highlighted when an older male slave asks Linda to teach him to read: “He thought he should know how to serve God better if he could only read the Bible” (Jacobs 61). When Linda warns him that to do so would be “contrary to the law; and that slaves were whipped and imprisoned for teaching each other to read,” the issue of forced illiteracy is brought to the forefront of the religious issues in the slave world

(Jacobs 61). It is a clear indication that slaves are not entitled to their own belief system, and that a slave’s underst...


... middle of paper ...


...xists.
Jacobs’ depiction of religion in the South throughout Incidents reveals it to be much more than merely a place to gather and express beliefs: it is yet another tool owned and used by slaveholders to strengthen the system of slavery. Slaves are denied unadulterated access to religious texts, as literacy is illegal, and therefore slaves are unable to read the Bible, and any black church or semblance of true religion is shut down with immediacy by the slaveholders.

Slaves are forced to seek God through white channels, which are manipulated by the whites to teach slaves obedience and fear. The slaveholders quite literally play God to ensure the submission and peace of their slaves. This violation of religion tenets, which are intended to instill justice, love, and equality, is a striking example of the perversity that the system of slavery produces in society.

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