Tuesday, 31 January 2012

2 views: 1 culture

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Views 1 Slave Culture”

Slavery differed for men and women. They were treated differently because of gender dissimilarities. Men were subjected more to field work, whereas women were used for domestic purposes, like household duties and rearing children. Frederick Douglass “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” narrates his autobiography with a description on how men were treated, being a man himself. And Harriet Jacob’s “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” tells a woman perspective. Douglass and Jacobs share the tough reality of being a piece of property while being born into different families and having their gender shape their slave experience.

Every individual needs love in order to grow into a healthy human being. Douglass was taken away from his family at an early age, as do many children. Families are torn apart when they are sold. Eventually down the sale line Douglass was passed down from master to master without ever having a close family connection. His mother did visit him at a young age during the night, but that was not enough to create a bond. Douglass reinforces this idea by stating that families were separated to “hinder the development of the child’s affection towards its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child”.

Jacobs does have memories of being cared for as a child. She lived with her grandma after her mother died. She had been a slave since she gave her first breath, although it was unknown to her until she was six years old. At least Jacobs had somewhat of a childhood, compared to Douglass. Children are sold and traded like a piece of cloth. Jacobs was sold to a girl younger than herself. Girls slaves were most likely to be used as a toy to any slave owner. Masters raped their slaves and thought of their children as profit. Even though the town knew that these children had a white father due to the color of their skin, they never mentioned names. In fact, slaves were prohibited from revealing the fathers identity. Jacobs, like many girl slaves, encountered being raped and treated as slave objects. She begun hearing obscene remarks from her master at the tender age of 15.

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On the other hand, boys are put to work young, as the word child labor” was inexistent. Being a slave meant that you were someone’s property and therefore did everything commanded of you, despite age. And if that meant getting beating till you almost died, then so be it. Douglass encountered many beatings as he was passed down from master to master. He may not have encountered the horrors of being raped like Jacobs, but he did find pain in physical and psychological abuse. Slaves were tortured to the point of death. It was lawful to kill one’s own property. Douglass mentions that it was a common to say “that it is worth half- cent to kill a ‘n’ and a half-cent to bury one”.

Slaves were treated inhumanly. Food was thrown at the floor like animals when it was the children’s turn to eat. Jacobs and Douglass both mentioned how the elderly slaves were treated. Just as an old rag, they were just left to fend for themselves. Being a slave and senior citizen was a bad combination. Nowadays, families take care of their elders, but during slavery families were separated and some individuals were left wondering if their kin were alive. Douglass’s quote “ slavery proved as injurious to whites as it did for slaves themselves”. One of the mistresses he had, turned from a sweet, nurturing lady to a mean owner. The power to own someone takes away from one’s morals and values.

Jacobs and Douglass also mention how masters tried to keep a good face in the community. Even though slaves were treated horribly, many masters tried to hide their sufferings. Jacobs for instance was not allowed to speak of her masters advance towards her. Douglass turned on his master and fought back whenever he had the chance. Instead of taking him to court and get a beating for disrespect, his master fought back but was quite about the incident. If a slave had the nerve to treat the master like that, then the master would be ridiculed because he was unable to control his slaves. Masters were also compared between slaves. Douglass mentions that “it is not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about the relative goodness of their masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his own over that of the others”. Many slaves saw other slaves hardships and imagined that their fate had been worse. It was better for them to think that another slave was going through a more difficult time, in order for themselves to deal with their misery.

Slaves were lied to many times. There was no need to keep a promise because no owner could have been held responsible for it. Jacobs grandmother was promised that she would be set free when her mistress died. When than event occurred, the mistress’s family took charge of her and decided that her freedom was no longer existent. Slaves were sold whenever a master could get a good price. New Year’s day was a worse day for slaves. It was a day in which slaves were up for sale, and families cringed at the thought of being separated. Jacobs story coincided with Douglass’s in that the reader sees how important family is and how sad it was to know that they can be taken from you in an instant. Nowadays, we do not worry about working to save money to buy a family member. Family is around free of charge.

Jacobs had the privilege of not having to go through physical abuse, even though she did suffer a lot. A lot of her suffering was that of any woman. Her mistress accused her of having an affair with her husband, the master. She underwent jealous rages and humiliating scenarios. And just like any other woman, she fell in love. Unfortunately, she could not hold that relationship because she was indeed a slave.

They both knew that this could not go on. They wanted a better living; who wants to be a slave anyway? Even though Jacobs was not free in the end of the essay, she wanted to run away to the North and she eventually did. Douglass did in fact run away and was free. Their story, as well as others, should be known due to injustices society created. Their determination to change was shown in their learning to read. But even with all this Douglass finishes his essay with “I felt myself a slave and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down”, even after he had escaped and was free. With their two views, one can see one culture; the culture of an injustice that was gratefully over and done with.

Word count 1180

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