African American Autobiography and the Quest for Freedom: by Roland L. Williams Jr.

By Roland L. Williams Jr.

Slave narratives have been one of many earliest varieties of African American writing. those works, autobiographical in nature, later fostered different items of African American autobiography. because the upward push of Black experiences within the past due Sixties, top critics have built black lives and letters as antitheses of the methods and writings of mainstream American tradition. in response to such considering, black writing stems from a collection of studies very diversified from the area of whites, and black autobiography needs to as a result vary significantly from heroic white American stories. yet in pointing to alterations among black and white autobiographical works, those critics have ignored the similarities. This quantity argues that the African American autobiography is a continuation of the epic culture, a lot because the prose narratives of voyage by way of white americans within the 19th century likewise signify the evolution of the epic style. The publication makes transparent that the writers of black autobiography have shared and formed American tradition, and that their works are greatly part of American literature.An introductory essay presents a theoretical framework for the chapters that keep on with. It discusses the origins of African American autobiography and the bigger issues of the epic culture which are universal to the works of either black and white authors. The e-book then pairs consultant African American autobiographies with related works by means of white writers. hence the quantity suits Olaudah Equiano's slave narrative with The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the Narrative of the lifetime of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave with Richard Henry Dana's Years sooner than the Mast, and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents within the lifetime of a Slave lady with Fanny Fern's Ruth corridor. The learn shows that those quite a few works all realize the significance of studying as a method for reaching freedom. the ultimate bankruptcy presents a extensive survey of the African American autobiography.

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By the 1780s, Franklin evinced a straightforward wish to see blacks receive equal treatment in the United States. In 1787, he became the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society president and revitalized the coalition. From that office, he issued a public statement requesting an end to slavery, because it constituted "an atrocious debasement of human nature," accustoming a victim "to move like a mere machine" and thereby throttling thought, retarding choice, and bringing "reason and conscience" to submit to "the passion of fear" (1154-55).

He indicates t h a t black people suffer "many difficulties and disadvantages" due to the current bias against them; for their relief, he recommends t h a t Jefferson and his fellow whites "wean [themselves] from those narrow prejudices which [they] have imbibed" about his "brethren" (326-27). Equiano presents a similar case in his book. " In his opinion, t h e world's Creator did not "forebore to stamp understanding" on h u m a n s ebony in hue. Any "apparent inferiority" of blacks enslaved by whites might "naturally be ascribed to their situation" (45).

Swimming never strikes Equiano in the same way. Raised until eleven, in a valley beyond the site of "any water larger t h a n a pond or a rivulet" (Equiano [1798] 1995, 53), the black regrets having missed an opportunity to learn how to swim at home. Since, on the ships, where his youth is spent in slavery, white m a t e s guard against his escape by b a r r i n g him from m a s t e r i n g t h e trick to staying afloat, Equiano does not know how to keep himself up in deep water, and as a result, in the swim of things during his days at sea, his fortunes hang in the balance; in fact, on a few occasions, swift assistance from a kind swimmer j u s t saves him from drowning.

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