Students will demonstrate the ability to:
• Analyze historical facts and interpretations
• Analyze and compare political, geographic, economic, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual institutions, structures, and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures
• Recognize and articulate the diversity of human experience across a range of historical periods and the complexities of a global culture and society
• Draw on historical perspective to evaluate contemporary problems/issues
• Analyze the contributions of past cultures/societies to the contemporary world
The purpose of this assignment is to help you practice the following skills that are essential for your success in this course, in college, in the field of History, and in your professional life beyond college:
• Analyzing and synthesizing primary documents
• Comparing and contrasting experiences and perspectives
• Thinking critically about written information
This assignment will also help you to become familiar with the following important content in this discipline:
• The experiences and perspectives of Africans captured and forcibly removed from their native land
• The experiences and perspectives of African Americans sold at auction in the American South
• The experiences and perspectives of African Americans enduring slavery in the American South.
Read the excerpts from published slave narratives found in Content under American Voices as AV 1. Complete and submit a ten-paragraph written assignment based on this content (and this content alone) addressing each of the four topics below and following the instructions and format for each topic:
1 Compare and contrast the accounts of Olaudah Equiano and Boyrereau Brinch:
• Based on the limited information available to you in these two excerpts, what do you think Equiano and Brinch want their audiences to know about their lives in Africa before they were captured? (Paragraph one)
• While both excerpts describe the capture of young people in western Africa, what was the essential difference between Equiano’s kidnappers and those that grabbed Brinch, and how does this fact explain the differences in the experience each described? (Paragraph two)
2 Compare and contrast the accounts of Henry Bibb, Josiah Henson, and William Anderson:
• What conclusions can you draw about slave auctions in the South from reading these three accounts? Identify, describe, and provide evidence of at least two common and prevalent themes (Paragraphs three and four – one for each common theme)
• In what important way was Henry Bibb and his experience different from that of Henson and Anderson? (Paragraph five)
3 Compare and contrast the accounts of John Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, and Harriet Jacobs:
• What conclusions can you draw about the worst aspects of living as a slave in the American South from the reading of these three accounts? Identify and describe one unique (shared in only one account) deprivation or danger from each account (John Jacobs – Paragraph six; Lunsford Lane – Paragraph seven; Harriet Jacobs – Paragraph eight)
• From a personal perspective, which of the three aspects you identified in Paragraphs six, seven, and eight would you consider the worst and why? (Paragraph nine)
4 What is your most important takeaway from these document excerpts and what makes these 19th century accounts relevant today?
• Identify a relevant current issue in the United States and explain how the position a 21st century American takes on this issue could be informed by the history revealed in this set of primary documents. (Paragraph ten)
Criteria for Success
A submission that follows the instructions provided in the Task above will contain ten paragraphs. No introductory or closing paragraph is required.
The name of the assignment, Analyze, Synthesize, and Compare and Contrast: Captures in Africa, Slave Auctions in America, and Being a Slave, should appear at the top of the submission.
This assignment is worth up to 100 points. Each paragraph will be scored by content based on the specific instructions for each – see the rubric for point values. Each paragraph should be concise but complete. Make sure you have addressed the questions as they were asked. Your submission should also be written in complete sentences, be grammatically correct, and contain no spelling errors. Points will be deducted for multiple misspellings, incomplete sentences, and grammatical errors.
One or two direct quotes from each document excerpt are permissible but should be brief. Do not include more than one sentence, or partial sentence, in a quote. When you choose to use a direct quote, you should identify the source by name within the paragraph (you do not have to provide endnotes or footnotes). Examples:
• Brinch described how he and his friends “found ourselves waylayed by thirty or forty more of the same pale race of Vultures….”
• Josiah Henson related the impact of hearing the “sad announcement” that the slave sale was to take place: “the knowledge that all ties of the past are to be sundered, the frantic terror at the idea of being send ‘down south,’ the almost certainty that one member of the family will be torn from another….”
• As John Jacobs described being a slave: “To be a man, and not to be a man – a father without authority – a husband and no protector – is the darkest of fates.”
The short story is
Captures in Africa, Slave Auctions in America, and Being a Slave
Capture in Africa
For a century, from the late 1700s to the late 1800s, narratives by formerly enslaved people were published extensively in the United States and England, especially through the support of abolitionist societies before the end of slavery in Great Britain (1834) and the United States (1865).
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, 1789
Captured with his sister by slave traders in west Africa (present-day Nigeria) in the mid-1750s, when he was about eleven years old.
Generally when the grown people in the neighbourhood were gone far in the fields to labour, the children assembled together in some of the neighbours’ premises to play; and commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant or kidnapper that might come upon us, for they sometimes took those opportunities of our parents’ absence to attack and carry off as many as they could seize. One day as I was watching at the top of a tree in our yard, I saw one of those people come into the yard of our next neighbour but one, to kidnap, there being many stout young people in it. Immediately on this I gave the alarm of the rogue, and he was surrounded by the stoutest of them, who entangled him with cords so that he could not escape till some of the grown people came and secured him. But alas! ere long it was my fate to be thus attacked and to be carried off when none of the grown people were nigh. One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls and in a moment seized us both and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths and ran off with us into the nearest wood. Here they tied our hands and continued to carry us as far as they could…. thus I continued to travel, sometimes by land, sometimes by water, through different countries and various nations [in west Africa], till at the end of six or seven months after I had been kidnapped, I arrived at the sea coast…. The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried on board. I was immediately handled and tossed up to see if I were sound by some of the crew, and I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions too differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, (which was very different from any I had ever heard) united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace or copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I recovered a little I found some black people about me, who I believed were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay; they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and loose hair. They told me I was not; and one of the crew brought me a small portion of spirituous liquor in a wine glass; but, being afraid of him, I would not take it out of his hand….. Soon after this the blacks who brought me on board went off and left me abandoned to despair. I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo.
The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, 1810
Captured in Africa (probably Mali) at age sixteen, in the mid-1750s, while swimming in a river with friends.
When we ascended the bank, to our astonishment we discovered six or seven animals fastening a boat, and immediately made towards us. Consternation sat fixed upon every brow, and fear shook every frame; each member refused its office [i.e., each limb refused to move]. However, home invited so urgently that nature began to do her duty; we flew to the wood with precipitation. But Lo! when we had passed the borders and entered the body thereof, to our utter astonishment and dismay, instead of pursuers we found ourselves waylayed by thirty or forty more of the same pale race of white Vultures, whom to pass was impossible; we attempted without deliberation to force their ranks. But alas! we were unsuccessful, eleven out of fourteen were made captives, bound instantly, and notwithstanding our unintelligible entreaties, cries & lamentations, were hurried to their boat, and within five minutes were on board, gagged, and carried down the stream like a sluice; fastened down in the boat with cramped jaws, added to a horrid stench occasioned by filth and stinking fish; while all were groaning, crying and praying, but poor creatures to no effect. I after a siege of the most agonizing pains describable, fell into a kind of torpid state of insensibility which continued for some hours. Towards evening I awoke only to horrid consternation, deep wrought misery and woe, which defies language to depict. I was pressed almost to death by the weight of bodies that lay upon me; night approached and for the first time in my life, I was accompanied with gloom and horror. Thus in the 16th year of my age, I was borne away from native innocence, ease, and luxury, into captivity, by a Christian people, who preach humility, charity, and benevolence.
National Humanities Center, 2009: nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/. Full text (as digital images) of the WPA narratives in American Memory (Library of Congress) at lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html, and of 18th -19th -c. narratives in Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library) at docsouth.unc.edu/index.html.
Many African Americans who had escaped slavery in the southern United States published autobiographies describing their lives as slaves and their new lives as free men and women. In the century before the end of the Civil War in 1865, 102 such narratives had been published, many by abolitionist societies, and another 53 were published in the postbellum years to 1900. Central to many of these narratives are the authors’ memories of slave sales and auctions, of being sold and separated from their families. Presented here are the memories of Henry Bibb, Josiah Henson, and William J. Anderson.
Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, Written by Himself, 1849 Henry Bibb, after escaping to Canada and returning later to free his wife and child, was recaptured in Kentucky and sold with them in New Orleans.
When we arrived at the city of Vicksburg [Mississippi], he intended to sell a portion of his slaves there and stopped for three weeks trying to sell. But he met with very poor success. We had there to pass through an examination or inspection by a city officer, whose business it was to inspect slave property that was brought to that Market for sale. He examined our backs to see if we had been much scarred by the lash. He examined our limbs to see whether we were inferior. As it is hard to tell the ages of slaves, they look in their mouths at their teeth and prick up the skin on the back of their hands, and if the person is very far advanced in life, when the skin is pricked up, the pucker will stand so many seconds on the back of the hand. But the most rigorous examinations of slaves by those slave inspectors is on the mental capacity. If they are found to be very intelligent, this is pronounced the most objectionable of all other qualities connected with the life of a slave. In fact, it undermines the whole fabric of his chattelhood; it prepares for what slaveholders are pleased to pronounce the unpardonable sin when committed by a slave. It lays the foundation for running away and going to Canada. They also see in it a love for freedom, patriotism, insurrection, bloodshed, and exterminating war against American slavery. Hence they are very careful to inquire whether a slave who is for sale can read or write. This question has been asked me often by slave traders and cotton planters, while I was there for market. After conversing with me, they have sworn by their Maker that they would not have me among their negroes and that they saw the devil in my eye; I would run away, &c [etc.]. I have frequently been asked also if I had ever run away, but Garrison would generally answer this question for me in the negative. He could have sold my little family without any trouble for the sum of one thousand dollars. But for fear he might not get me off at so great an advantage, as the people did not like my appearance, he could do better by selling us all together. They all wanted my wife, while but very few wanted me. He asked twenty-five hundred dollars but was not able to get us off at that price. He tried to speculate on my Christian character. He tried to make it appear that I was so pious and honest that I would not run away for ill treatment, which was a gross mistake, for I never had religion enough to keep me from running away from slavery in my life. But we were taken from Vicksburg to the city of New Orleans where we were to be sold at any rate. We were taken to a trader’s yard or a slave prison on the corner of St. Joseph street. This was a common resort for slave traders and planters who wanted to buy slaves; and all classes of slaves were kept there for sale, to be sold in private or public ⎯ young or old, males or females, children or parents, husbands or wives. Everyday at 10 o’clock they were exposed for sale. They had to be in trim for showing themselves to the public for sale. Everyone’s head had to be combed and their faces washed, and those who were inclined to look dark and rough were compelled to wash in greasy dish water, to look slick and lively. When spectators would come in the yard, the slaves were ordered out to form a line. They were made to stand up straight and look as sprightly as they could; and when they were asked a question, they had to answer it as promptly as they could and try to induce the spectators to buy them. If they failed to do this, they were severely paddled after the spectators were gone. The object for using the paddle in the place of a lash was to conceal the marks which would be made by the flogging. And the object for flogging under such circumstances is to make the slaves anxious to be sold. The paddle is made of a piece of hickory timber, about one inch thick, three inches in width, and about eighteen inches in length. The part is applied to the flesh is bored full of quarter-inch auger holes, and every time this is applied to the flesh of the victim, the blood gushes through the holes of the paddle or a blister makes its appearance. The persons who are thus flogged are always stripped naked and their hands tied together. They are then bent over double, their knees are forced between their elbows, and a stick is put through between the elbows and the bend of the legs in order to hold the victim in that position, while the paddle is applied to those parts of the body which would not be so likely to be seen by those who wanted to buy slaves.
Truth Stranger than Fiction: Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life, 1858
Josiah Henson was born enslaved in Maryland. As a young boy he was sold along with his mother and five siblings when their owner died. Although soon reunited with his mother, he never saw his brothers and sisters again.
Common as are slave-auctions in the southern states, and naturally as a slave may look forward to the time when he will be put up on the block, still the full misery of the event ⎯ of the scenes which precede and succeed it ⎯ is never understood till the actual experience comes. The first sad announcement that the sale is to be, the knowledge that all ties of the past are to be sundered, the frantic terror at the idea of being sent “down south,” the almost certainty that one member of a family will be torn from another, the anxious scanning of purchasers’ faces, the agony at parting, often forever, with husband, wife, child ⎯ these must be seen and felt to be fully understood. Young as I was then, the iron entered into my soul. The remembrance of the breaking up of McPherson’s estate [the property of his first owner] is photographed in its minutest features in my mind. The crowd collected round the stand, the huddling group of negroes, the examination of muscle, teeth, the exhibition of agility, the look of the auctioneer, the agony of my mother ⎯ I can shut my eyes and see them all. My brothers and sisters were bid off first, and one by one, while my mother, paralyzed by grief, held me by the hand. Her turn came, and she was bought by Isaac Riley of Montgomery county. Then I was offered to the assembled purchasers. My mother, half distracted with the thought of parting forever from all her children, pushed through the crowd while the bidding for me was going on, to the spot where Riley was standing. She fell at his feet and clung to his knees, entreating him in tones that a mother only could command to buy her baby as well as herself, and spare to her one, at least, of her little ones. Will it, can it, be believed that this man, thus appealed to, was capable not merely of turning a deaf ear to her supplication, but of disengaging himself from her with such violent blows and kicks as to reduce her to the necessity of creeping out of his reach and mingling the groan of bodily suffering with the sob of a breaking heart? As she crawled away from the brutal man I heard her sob out, “Oh, Lord Jesus, how long, how long shall I suffer this way!” I must have been then between five and six years old. I seem to see and hear my poor weeping mother now. This was one of my earliest observations of men, an experience which I only shared with thousands of my race, the bitterness of which to any individual who suffers it cannot be diminished by the frequency of its recurrence, while it is dark enough to overshadow the whole after-life with something blacker than a funeral pall. Almost immediately, however, whether my childish strength at five or six years of age was overmastered by such scenes and experiences, or from some accidental cause, I fell sick, and seemed to my new master so little likely to recover that he proposed to R., the purchaser of my mother, to take me too at such a trifling rate that it could not be refused. I was thus providentially restored to my mother; and under her care, destitute as she was of the proper means of nursing me, I recovered my health and grew up to be an uncommonly vigorous and healthy boy and man.
Life and Narrative of William J. Anderson, Twenty-four Years a Slave, 1857
Sold Eight Times! In Jail Sixty Times!! Whipped Three Hundred Times!!! or The Dark Deeds of American Slavery Revealed, 1857. Born in Virginia to a free mother and enslaved father, William Anderson was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. His owner took him and nearly seventy other newly purchased slaves, chained together, to his Mississippi plantation.
In due time we arrived safely in the slave pen at Natchez [Mississippi], and here we joined another large crowd of slaves which were already stationed at this place. Here scenes were witnessed which are too wicked to mention. The slaves are made to shave and wash in greasy pot liquor to make them look sleek and nice; their heads must be combed and their best clothes put on; and when called out to be examined they are to stand in a row ⎯ the women and men apart ⎯ then they are picked out and taken into a room, and examined. See a large, rough slaveholder take a poor female slave into a room, make her strip, then feel of and examine her as though she were a pig, or a hen, or merchandise. O, how can a poor slave husband or father stand and see his wife, daughters and sons thus treated. I saw there, after men and women had followed each other, then ⎯ too shocking to relate ⎯ for the sake of money they are sold separately, sometimes two hundred miles apart, although their hopes would be to be sold together. Sometimes their little children are torn from them and sent far away to a distant country, never to see them again. O, such crying and weeping when parting from each other! For this demonstration of natural human affection the slaveholder would apply the lash or paddle upon the naked skin. The former was used less frequently than the latter, for fear of making scars or marks on their backs, which are closely looked for by the buyer. I saw one poor woman dragged off and sold from her tender child ⎯ which was nearly white ⎯ which the seller would not let go with its mother. Although the master of the mother importuned him a long time to let him have it with its mother, with oaths and curses he refused. It was too hard for the mother to bear; she fainted and was whipped up. It is impossible for me to give more than a faint idea of what was enacted in the town of Natchez, for there were many slave pens there in 1827. For some reason or other, which I never knew, I was sold first. A hellish, rough-looking, hard-hearted, slave-driving slaveholder by the name of Rocks bought me from T. L. Pain, Denton & Co. We were delayed a few days before we got a boat for the residence of Mr. Rocks. I had an opportunity of seeing the distress of the poor slaves of Natchez, but in a few years afterwards God visited them with an awful overthrow. A dreadful hurricane destroyed houses and boats of all kinds, and many lives of nobles were lost in oblivion.
National Humanities Center, 2007: nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/. In the public domain. Full text of narratives online in Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina Library) at docsouth.unc.edu/neh
ON BEING A SLAVE
In several hundred narratives published in the 1800s, formerly enslaved African Americans related their personal experiences of enslavement. Presented here are perspectives on being a slave, the “darkest of fates,” from John Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, and Harriet Jacobs.
JOHN JACOBS, “A True Tale of Slavery,” 1861
To be a man, and not to be a man ⎯ a father without authority ⎯ a husband and no protector ⎯ is the darkest of fates. Such was the condition of my father, and such is the condition of every slave throughout the United States: he owns nothing, he can claim nothing. His wife is not his; his children are not his; they can be taken from him and sold at any minute, as far away from each other as the human fleshmonger may see fit to carry them. Slaves are recognized as property by the law and can own nothing except by the consent of their masters. A slave’s wife or daughter may be insulted before his eyes with impunity. He himself may be called on to torture them, and dare not refuse. To raise his hand in their defense is death by the law. He must bear all things and resist nothing. If he leaves his master’s premises at any time without a written permit, he is liable to be flogged.
Yet, it is said by slaveholders and their apologists that we are happy and contented. I will admit that slaves are sometimes cheerful; they sing and dance, as it is politic for them to do. I myself had changed owners three times before I could see the policy [wisdom] of this appearance of contentment. My father taught me to hate slavery but forgot to teach me how to conceal my hatred. I could frequently perceive the pent-up agony of his soul, although he tried hard to conceal it in his own breast. The knowledge that he was a slave himself, and that his children were also slaves, embittered his life, but made him love us the more.
LUNSFORD LANE, The Narrative of Lunsford Lane, 1842
When I began to work, I discovered the difference between myself and my master’s white children. They began to order me about, and were told to do so by my master and mistress. I found, too, that they had learned to read, while I was not permitted to have a book in my hand. To be in the possession of anything written or printed was regarded as an offense. And then there was the fear that I might be sold away from those who were dear to me and conveyed to the far South. I had learned that being a slave I was subject to this worst (to us) of all calamities and I knew of others in similar situations to myself thus sold away. My friends were not numerous but in proportion as they were few they were dear and the thought that I might be separated from them forever was like that of having the heart torn from its socket, while the idea of being conveyed to the far South seemed infinitely worse than the terrors of death. To know, also, that I was never to consult my own will, but was, while I lived, to be entirely under the control of another was another state of mind hard for me to bear. Indeed all things now made me feel what I had before known only in words, that I was a slave. Deep was this feeling, and it preyed upon my heart like a never-dying worm.
HARRIET JACOBS, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” 1861
But I now entered on my fifteenth year — a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import [meaning]. I tried to treat them with indifference or contempt. . . He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of. I turned from him with disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him — where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property, that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe…..
If God has bestowed beauty upon her [a female slave], it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave. I know that some are too much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely and shrink from the memory of it. I cannot tell how much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor how I am still pained by the retrospect. My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for a breath of fresh air after a day of unwearied toil, his footsteps dogged me. If I knelt by my mother’s grave, his dark shadow fell on me even there. The light heart which nature had given me became heavy with sad forebodings. The other slaves in my master’s house noticed the change. Many of them pitied me, but none dared to ask the cause. They had no need to inquire. They knew too well the guilty practices under that roof, and they were aware that to speak of them was an offense that never went unpunished….
The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences…..
Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation, and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into the slavetrader’s hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight….
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