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American Slavery Narrative Essay

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American slavery was an evil institution. I always inherently knew this fact was true in the back of my mind. However, after reading these three different narratives on the lives of slaves, my eyes have been opened to a whole new meaning of understanding. Just being able to put faces with the stories makes my heart cringe and makes me feel disgusted for the way these people were forced to live their lives. The three narratives I chose to read were: Linda Brent's, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, the WPA narrative on Richard Toler, and the WPA narrative on Charity Anderson.

Linda Brent begins her story at her first recollection of knowing she was a slave. Up until that point in her life, she had never really known what it meant to be called a slave. She actually had a happy beginning with a father who was more or less considered free due to his carpentry skills, and her grandmother who is well respected throughout the community, who also has luxuries that are not granted to normal slaves. At age six, Brent's mother dies and her grandmother takes the role of her maternal figure. Her original mistress dies 6 years later, and Brent is sold off to another family. Brent is now under the house of Dr. Flint and from this point forward, her life begins to spiral downward almost to the point of death. The story then picks up when Brent is 15 and is now being constantly harassed by both Dr. and Mrs. Flint in a struggle between the hatred/jealously of the mistress and the sexual lust of Dr. Flint. Brent confides in her grandmother and her brother for protection and for advice. During these struggles, Brent falls in love for a free black man and wants to marry him, but Dr. Flint will not sell her to him. At this point Brent felt that, "...nothing seemed more dreadful than my present life" (Brent 42). She was then determined to flea from her horrible master. In near desperation, Brent decides to become sexually involved with a white male lawyer named Mr. Sands. She becomes pregnant and her grandmother thinking the baby is from Dr. Flint is disheartened by the news. Brent, now very pregnant reconciles with her grandmother and then proceeds to live with her. The story then picks up with Brent running away from the plantation and going to her grandmother's. She is forced to live with a family friend in a storage room. With Dr. Flint hot on her trail, Brent is forced to hide under the planks of the kitchen floor. With other slaves threatening to turn Brent in for a handsome reward, she is forced to leave again, first on a ship disguised as a sailor and then at a hideout in a snake infested swamp. Finally, Brent leaves the swamp, moves back in with her grandmother and lives in the attic. During these months, Brent goes through very trying times of illness and frostbite. Brent attempts to fool Dr. Flint of her whereabouts while at the same time Dr. Flint attempts to bribe her children into telling him her hiding spot. In the end, Brent is able to escape and live peacefully in the North. Of course she is still subject to discrimination, in the form of not being able to buy first class tickets on trains and such. Also, the fugitive slave act becomes a problem for Brent. She is forced to be especially careful even after she learns of Dr. Flint's death. Brent finally becomes free when she is bought by Mrs. Bruce for $300 dollars from Dr. Flint's in-laws. Her grandmother stays alive long enough to hear the news of the freedom, but then passes away soon after. Brent lived out the rest of her days with Mrs. Bruce and is finally able to stop running away and simply live her life as a free black woman.

The second Narrative I read was on Richard Toler. He was a slave in a later era than Brent was; it was in a period of time closer to the civil war. He speaks about never having a good time in his life until he was free. He goes into detail about slaves being threatened and whipped, but that he would always run away into the woods before he would be whipped so that they would have to negotiate with him and in turn he went unpunished. He states, however, that they never mistreated him despite knowing other slaves that were whipped or even killed for bad behavior.



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