4) Slavery was justified by racial ideology. Consider three texts, including one that was written by a former slave. How do the authors either replicate or refute racial ideologies common in the nineteenth century?
I am going to focus on the narratives of Frederick Douglass and Linda Brent as examples of a refusal of racial ideologies and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as an example of replicating (although attempting to refute) racial ideologies of the day. Douglass’s Narrative and Brent’s Incidents follow them from ignorance to knowledge; knowledge and freedom gained through their own doing. I think that Stowe is in a way both trying to write an anti-slavery novel, however, I can’t see her as anti-racist because Romantic Racialism is what grounds her arguments. In all three, I am going to prove that the relationship between and the representations of the body and the mind are what either refuse or support racial ideologies of the nineteenth century.
First, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative introduces the reader to a young Douglass who is ignorant in terms of book knowledge and also lacks practical life experience. He even lacks the knowledge of his own age. But the fact that Douglass is able to educate himself refutes the idea of the time that African Americans were intellectually inferior. By the end of the narrative, he is more educated than someone like Covey, one of his former masters.
Kimberly Drake claims that
[t]he ability to utilize language, especially written language or literacy,
is also portrayed by many ex-slaves as crucial to their quest for freedom,
a freedom which in large part is the ability to allow ...
... middle of paper ...
...impulse. All three of these books have really helped me to gain an understanding of what the racial ideologies of the period in which they were written were: Douglass and Brent, through their refusal of these ideologies and Stowe through her inadvertent reinforcement of them.
Brent, Linda. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. L. Maria Child. San Diego:
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1995.
Drake, Kimberly. “Rewriting the American Self: Race, Gender, and Identity in the
Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.” MELUS 22 (Winter
MacFarlane, Lisa Watt. “’If Ever I Get to Where I Can’: The Competing Rhetorics of
Social Reform in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” ATQ 2 (June 90): 135-148.
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