Black History Reading (5)

Harriet_Tubman_Civil_War_Woodcut.jpg
A wood carving of Harriet Tubman in the Civil War. (Wikipedia Commons)

Harriet Tubman is by far one of the most beloved characters in US history. Indeed, she had helped free many African American slaves and even earned the title “Moses of Her People,” referencing the biblical language of leading of the mass exodus of Moses’s people from slavery to freedom.

Tubman’s story, of course, was slightly different than the one found in Exodus. While Moses and the people of Egypt were let go by Pahora (Exo 13:17), Tubman had to figure out how to escape using stealth and deception. Her aid to African slaves also was not a mass exodus from point A to point B, like we see in the book of Exodus. She had to cross her Red Sea as many as 19 times, freeing a number of African Americans from the cruelty of slavery. Harriet even had a $40,000 bounty on her head. These quibbles, however, are not important. What’s important is that she freed many people at the risk of her life and her own freedom.

Chapter 5 of the book Creating Black Americans by Harriet Tubman was titles “Those Who Enslaved, ca. 1770-1859.” Since I had a difficult time logging into my WordPress account, I am going to steer away from my usual 15 hundred or so word count and just meet the minimum 500 for this blog post and the next for the sake of time. Still, I plan on providing useful and interesting information for all my readers.

During the time when Harriet was helping people escape slavery, people, white and black, had widely recognized the evils of the institution of slavery. But because it was as important as it was towards the American economy, people were not willing to give it up and came up with argument justifying their use of slaves and even used pseudo scientific “research” to support their arguments.

The bad fruits of slavery were recognized in both the slave owners and the slaves. When speaking of slave owners, Harriet Jacobs, an African-American writer who escaped from slavery, was quoted saying that slavery made “fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation” (100). Slavery, in short, was not psychologically satisfying for both parties. And carried many heavy burdens on both the free and the enslaved.

What was even more interesting, however, than reading about the negative effects of slavery on owners was the positive effects it had on slaves. Don’t misunderstand me, slavery was not nor should it be viewed as a happy sappy institution. Indeed, there were many more negative effects that greatly outweighed the positive. However, there were still positive effects. And it would only justify history to discuss these things.

Some of the contributions that slavery had on the value system of African slaves came from a sense of unity and family. There was mutual aid and individualism. “The feeling of belonging,” writes Painter, “to a black community came more easily to those living in their own neighborhoods, the slave quarters of large plantations” (102).

Text To Self

I really enjoyed the section discussing “Undermining Slavery.” Slavery was an awful institution at large, and did more harm than it did good to both sides of the spectrum. But there were those who fought slavery. These people, to me, have contributed so much to my interest in injustice around is. For instance, Frederick Douglass says in his famous “What the Black Man Wants,” calls for liberty. He wants freedom!

Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, “What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner-table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot-box, let him alone, don’t disturb him!

I too, feel for the sense of freedom and liberty. My father, who is a Mexican immigrant, has received poor treatment from the US government. When, for example, Arizona passed a bill that said they could pull over anyone who looks Mexican he was given such a hard time. He is a business owner and his workers, who are also usually Mexicans, had a hard time driving place to place without being harassed by the police. He would come home very upset and angry, saying that he got pulled over 2 or 3 times a day.

Fortunately, I was not on the road those days.But I can feel for Fredericks call for the government and people to just leave us alone and let us live our own lives.

3 Quotations 

“fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.” (100)

“The feeling of belonging to a black community came more easily to those living in their own neighborhoods, the slave quarters of large plantations” (102).

“African Americans were strong Christians, as black artist have shown. But they distinguished their religion from the religion of their owners, which they viewed as phony” (102).

I really enjoyed the last quote more than anything. It was clear that Black Americans had heard and recognized many of the hypocrisies that had tainted the minds of slave owners and that notable speakers like Frederick Douglass and others have pointed this out.

(1044 words-so much for a minimum 500)

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