Power Relations Between Covey And Douglass Essay

Power Relations Between Covey And Douglass Essay

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One - The power relations between Covey and Douglass are inherently dissimilar to those between the typical black and typical white of the time period. As Douglass writes, “Mr. Covey was a poor man, a farm-renter. He rented the place upon which he lived, as also the hands with which he tilled it” (Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 420). Because “the enslavement of the Negro determined the position of the poor whites in the old South,” a white without any slaves or land to his name was more akin to an enslaved black than to a wealthy plantation owner in terms of social standing. This status, added to the fact that “the poor whites understood that slavery was responsible for their hopeless economic condition,” contributed to a great deal of animosity between lower-class Caucasians of the period and slaves, as well as more specifically between Covey and Douglass. “To these lowly people slavery offered what they considered a defense of their self-respect” (Brewer, 26). This social and financial system of enslavement wherein Douglass was compelled to work under the authority of Covey, whose only advantage was his reputation as a “nigger-breaker,” essentially reduced him to an animalistic state. The only way Douglass has of breaking this enslavement is to confront Covey with physical force. Because he was reduced to an animal, physical and violent confrontation that rejected both his degradation and emasculation at the hands of Covey was his only method of reaffirming his humanity. Douglass writes that the fight “rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom” and “revived…a sense of manhood” within him, showing that his attack on Covey was what gave him hope of attaining freedom one day and returned his sense of human natu...


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...ons. “She would smack my rump with the stave and…impart to me gems of Jim Crow wisdom…I was never, never, under any conditions, to fight white folks again” (24). This shows, as described in Miller’s essay, that subjugation is not natural and is a taught facet of society. Later, Wright experiences the dominants’ hold on superior positions when he is told that a certain job is “white man’s work” (25). The internalization of dominant views among the subordinate population is similarly seen when Wright asks a friend about the poor conditions in which blacks were forced to live. His friend responds, “Lawd, man! Ef it wuzn’t fer them polices ‘n’ them ol’ lynch-mobs, there wouldn’t be nothin’ but uproar down here” (32). This response clearly shows the tendency for subordinate groups to begin to doubt their own abilities, particularly in terms of autonomy or self-government.

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