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Effects Of Slavery On The African American Family

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The effects of slavery on the African American family were tremendous. From slave mother's and father's having their children taken away and sold, to brother's and sister's being split apart, to having the actual slave-owner being the one to father children with slaves, to even say that African American families even existed might sound ridiculous. But they did exist; it just depends on what you might define as a "family". Slavery did not weaken or dissolve the African American family. Instead, it brought all involved even closer together. I will discuss in this paper how for the author's of Incidents and Narrative, families were a driving force of their mission to free themselves. I will also discuss that for Douglass and Jacobs, no matter how harsh of treatment their masters and overseers inflicted upon them and their family, both author's families were able to hold strong and continue to exist. Third I will discuss the roles of white men and women that played huge parts in shaping the lives and families of Douglass and Jacob's for the benefit of the African American family, instead of trying to suppress and eliminate it.

In both books, Douglass' Narrative and Jacobs' Incidents, families played a key roll in the lives of the authors. They were the people in their lives that gave hope, and inspired both authors to escape to the north for freedom and better lives for them and their family. For Douglass, the actual connections to immediate family didn't really exist due to him being so young and separated from his mom, sisters, and brother and never having really seen them enough to consider them close family. But just because you don't share the same blood, doesn't mean that you can't consider those close to you family.

Close friends for Douglass were his family. In Douglass' Narrative he wrote, "For the ease with which I passed the year, I was, however, somewhat indebted to the society of my fellow slaves. They were noble souls; they not only possessed loving hearts, but brave ones. We were linked and interlinked with each other. I loved them with a love stronger than anything I have experienced sinceÐ'...I believe we would have died for each other." It was slavery that brought upon such close relations of family. It was these people that trusted and loved each other so much like a family that they were able to conspire about running away. You really had to have that trust because huge penalties for even conspiring to run brought upon stiff punishments. Another way that Douglass helped himself and those he cared for like family reach freedom was teaching them how to read on Sabbath. Douglass wrote," their minds had been starved by their cruel masters. They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them because it was the delight of my soul to be doing something that looked like the bettering condition of my race." It was these lessons that he taught that enabled others to read and for at least one, gain freedom, "and I have the happiness to know, that several of those who came to Sabbath school learned how to read; and that one, at least, is now free."

In Jacobs' Incidents, the idea of having her family remaining in bondage and getting split up so as never to see her children again was her driving force for attaining freedom. She did everything in her power to make sure that her family would remain intact and free. One way she did this was by having relations with Mr. Sands, Jacobs was able to make sure that her children would be in the safe care of someone trustworthy. Jacobs wrote this about Mr. Sands, "He spoke kind and encouraging words. He promised to care for my child and to buy me, be the conditions what they might." If she had had relations with Dr. Flint, she knew that her children by him would have been taken away and sold, leaving her family destroyed.

For each author, family was a necessity to have, just to carry on life and live. This was extremely so for Jacob's Incidents. The secret location of where she was to be in hiding was a life or death secret. Only the closest people to Jacobs knew of its location. When revealing the secret to her daughter Ellen she wrote, "Ellen, this is a secret you have promised grandmother never to tell. If you ever speak of it to anybody, they will never let you see your grandmother again, and your mother can never come to Brooklyn." The secret that needed to be kept was a secret that only family can keep. No one in Jacob's family would ever have betrayed that information because if they did it might mean the end of Jacob's life.

Another way that family was there for Jacobs was how her grandmother made sure that she never went hungry like the rest, due to meager portions of food given to slaves. Or how her grandmother supplied clothes for Jacobs, "for on my various errands I passed my grandmother's house where there was always something to spare for meÐ'...grandmother, to avoid detaining me, often stood at the gate with something for my breakfast or dinnerÐ' was her labor that supplied my scanty wardrobe." Having family around to help support each other meant suffering less hardship.

.For Douglass, the harassment he received by Mr. Covey was enough to make anyone not want to live anymore. "I was somewhat unmanageable when I first when there, but a few months of this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit." After receiving a serious beating



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