Other moving tales of the horrors of the auction block are featured in B. A. Botkin’s work in the section entitled “Going High, Going Slow,” pp. 153-162. Students may wish to read all of those presented in that section. Most are short in length.
Assign individual students to memorize the narratives as speeches to be presented in class. Other students may choose to mime the action in the story during the recitation.
IV. Slave Life on the Plantation
Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl featured in
The Classic Slave Narratives
edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., gives extraordinary testimony on what it was to be a slave and a woman. In the words of Maya Angelou, the experience was “the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.” (Angelou, p. 6) Ironically, Harriet Jacobs’s slave narrative was met with much skepticism by John Blassingame who in
initially dismissed Jacobs’s story as a fake. (Washington, 7)
Critics of Blassingame asserted that he found the work “too melodramatic to be authentic” because he used the male narrative as the standard, the most notable example,
by Frederick Douglass, (Washington, p. 7) Issues of sexual liaisons between slave women and white masters were not the major concern of black men in their quest for freedom. Slave women in their narratives told of their struggle to resist their brutal treatment which was often sexual in form. Slave men told of their flight to freedom, a direct route to manhood. For women, flight was not always feasible, for it invariably meant leaving the children behind, as in the case of Harriet Jacobs. Freedom was not a place (the North) but rather a state of mind. Women in their struggle endured victimization in ways that make them appear passive. Yet their struggle is no less noble or heroic.