Slavery subjected people of African descent to extreme suffering for many years at the hands of white slave-owners. The oppression of slaves in the plantations of the Americas generated a lot of resentment from the black people, who saw the institution as dehumanizing and a serious effrontery to the fundamental principles of human dignity. On other the hand, white slave owners perpetuated the practice because the Negro provided cheap labor and was also considered a lesser being. For centuries, black people suffered in silence due to the lack of voice that fearlessly condemned the enslavement of blacks in the Americas. However, the abolition of slavery by Britain slowly invoked an aura of consciousness in the black communities around the world regarding the mistreatment and cruelty the race was subjected at the time. By the turn of the 19th century, movements started building up to offer a platform upon which the antislavery issues were articulated. And since the black people possessed little education, they mostly relied on narratives to pass information to fellow Negros and other antislavery proponents, regarding the suffering the institution was inflicting on the people of the black race. The narratives of Equiano, Jacobs, and Douglass played a significant role in sustaining the abolitionist movements in the United States during the 19th century.
The Narratives of the Life Fredrick Douglass gave an impetus to the campaigners of the abolition of slavery in The South at a time when antislavery sentiments were facing the ruthless crackdown from the conservationists. Douglass narrates heart-wrenching scenes of mistreatment and oppression perpetrated by white plantation owners in the South and new territories. A fugitive slave, he escaped and joined antislavery movements that were gaining ground in various parts of the United States. Fredrick Douglass was one of the few educated slaves who spent a lot of time educating themselves because he believed that knowledge was critical to the emancipation of the black people in America. According to him, the white slaveholders denied the Negros information so as to perpetuate mental manipulation that was essential for control of the enslaved persons. He argued that the denial of accessing knowledge made many persons of African descent believe that the institution of slavery would never end, and the servitude was the fate of people of color in America. The narratives served as ammunition for the abolitionist movement in several ways. They gave a first-hand articulation of the extent of the oppression and barbarity of the institution in the South. He brought to the fore the brutal treatment of children of slaves to a wider audience by candidly explaining the savage acts perpetrated on the enslaved children in the south. The revelations made black people more conscious of the need to defend their dignity, leading to widespread antislavery sentiments across the United States. The narrative received more appeal to white abolitionists and politicians who in turn joined hands to campaign for the end of the practice in the South.
The narrative of Fredrick Douglass provided the motivation the black people needed at the time to sustain the fight against oppression. As a well-educated black man, Douglass instilled a sense of hope and inspiration in the black population who came out in large numbers to join antislavery movements across the Union. The eloquence manifested in the narrative underscored the belief that the abolitionist leaders had the leadership capabilities to guide the black populations to forge a formidable antislavery force that would eventually bring down to the institution of slavery. Also, the narrative creates awareness about the intelligence of the black person who, for years, was regarded as of lesser intellect and as such was unable to articulate the issues afflicting the black people in America. Douglass made the rest of the world aware of the need to uphold and respect human dignity regardless of race. Such awareness generated a lot of support from the white populations and encouraged the formation of groups that organized forums of emancipation. Furthermore, the narratives created a new desire for more information about the suffering of the black populations in the South. The Negro became more aware that an informed community, as epitomized by Douglass, would offer the antislavery movements the energy it required to achieve its objectives. According to Douglass, information was necessary so as to free the mind first because a freed mind was capable of delivering more than an enslaved conscious.
Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl provided a profound insight into the horror women went through as a result of slavery. Just like Fredrick Douglass she narrates her escape from the plantations where she witnessed extreme brutality as perpetrated on fellow women and children. The narrative features graphic descriptions of the horrifying conditions of slaves at the hands of their white slaveholders. These emotional descriptions of the suffering in the plantations caught the attention of many white readers who joined in the campaign to end the institution in the United States. Jacobs depicts the harrowing experiences mothers face as a result of prolonged separation from their children. The story also underscores the problems the female slaves encountered such as sexual abuse in the plantations. The narrative added more ammunition to the abolitionist movement as more and more whites joined the campaign to end the institution. The narration that her children were of mixed race and that they received mistreatment from their parents coincided with Douglass suspicion that his father was white yet these white parents showed no compassion to their offspring. Such revelations provoked emotions among white readers and writers who condemned and lobbied fellow whites to support the cause of emancipating black people in the country. Jacobss success in securing employment as a nanny at a white abolitionist in New York demonstrated the momentum and popularity the antislavery movement was gaining among the whites
The narrative from Equiano presents a case of one of the few slaves who received a lot of support from the white abolitionists from an early age. The descriptions of his masters reveal several incidents where he was treated with dignity, unlike most slaves. The account gives the picture on how slaves were treated in various parts of the British colonies where he served. The Interesting Narratives of the Life of Equiano received considerable attention from the wider British audience who, before its publication, had little information about the horrors of slavery in the British colonies. The new awareness of the savages of slavery increased the number of individuals and societies that supported its abolition in England. The church joined the campaign in assisting Equiano to make more publications so as to raise awareness among the politicians about the need to enact laws that prohibited slavery. These campaigns culminated in the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which officially outlawed the practice of slavery in Britain and its colonies. Although this development had little effect on the practice in the Americas, it created a foundation upon which future abolitionist movements were formed. Also, it created a sense of hope and motivation among slaves outside Britain that freedom can be realized if the struggle is kept alive.
The narratives of Equiano, Jacobs, and Douglass added more ammunition to the abolitionist movements not only in the United States but also in several parts of the world. The narratives brought to the fore graphic incidents of the brutality of that were being perpetrated by the plantation owners. They highlighted the oppression black mothers were going through as a result of separation from their mothers at a very tender age. Also, the narratives pointed out the sexual abuses that were committed by white slave-owners on their women slaves. Furthermore, the descriptions appealed to a wider audience who rallied against the practice. Although the stories did not yield immediate results, they had important ramifications that eventually saw the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. The end of the war officially ended the practice of slavery in the United States.
Liggins-Hill, Patricia, et al. Call & Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African
American Literary Tradition. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1998.
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