Throughout the history of world there have been many documented cases of oppression and violence that one country or one race has forces upon another. Although the notion of slavery is thought to be gone from today’s world, there are still numerous countries that force individuals to work against their will for little or no rewards. A massive area to studying and view slavery took place in the United States from the early seventieth century up to the American civil war, which ended slavery, in the middle nineteenth century. The driving force behind slavery was the demand for cheap labour, and the slave owners and slave traders were determined to obtain it. The exploitation of their slaves, which were to be from Africa, was a huge business throughout North America. The business that was so profitable for the slave owners and slave traders played havoc for the slaves from Africa as families were divided and relationships were broken. After slavery was abolished it was not easily forgotten and the discrimination of the black population would stop in some areas of the United States. The hate and anger from oppressing white minority would continue and would expand into different areas and social groups well to present day. With information taken from Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and a narrative Memories of Childhood’s Slavery Days written by Annie L. Burton this paper will examine the life styles and views that slaves possessed during slavery and what life was like for them after gaining their freedom.
The literature that was covered, in both the novel and narrative, gave great insight to the situation that slaves were faced with. To a further extent the material provided not only a slave’s view but both pieces of material were from a woman’s perspective. The following critique will deal with the two pieces of literature and examine the content of both.
The work by Jacobs details the life a young black girl who in the early stages of her life, although being a slave, was not subjected to the cruel treatment from her owner as so many other slaves would be. Her compassion for her owner is a rarity, as for most slaves the relationship with their master’s is one of complete obedience while harboring anger within them. The following illustrates the feelings that Linda, the young slave girl, had for her mistress “As I saw the cheek grow paler, and the eye more glassy, how earnestly I prayed that she might live! I loved her; for she had been like a mother to me.” Linda’s life would change dramatically after the death of her mistress; her life now would no longer be as joyful and happy as she was to be traded to another slave owner.
For Burton who is writing about herself, named Annie in the narrative, her childhood is placed in a time of change as it is during the civil war. Burton’s description of her surroundings, to a certain extent, seems to be of confusion with both black and white races having difficulty coming to grips with the new world that they live in. The old way of life in the south is no longer the norm and the future can no longer be predicted as it was before. For Burton her future seems to be filled with opportunity and becoming a figure of success for she no longer had the oppression of slavery to deal with, or so she believed to be the case.