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The Study Of Slavey In Film And Literature

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Throughout time, the history of slavery has been shown by film and popular literature. In the beginning, when film and literature were becoming important factors amongst society, slavery was being depicted as a job enjoyed by slaves or field work that wasn't as harsh as it seemed. This false pretence of slavery swept the nation and many Americans fell into this belief. But books such as My Bondage and My Freedom, written by Frederick Douglass, Life of a Slave Girl, written by Harriet A. Jacobs, and movies such as Roots, show a different aspect of what really went on during the many years of slavery. These forms of writing and film displayed the harsh and rugged reality of being a slave. Though some schools use these sources to show the truth about the struggle of slavery, many schools still are using outdated forms of literature that still try and soften the history of slavery or schools just spend minimal time on the subject giving students a vague look at what really happened. All this leads to a society that is blinded to the truth on what really happened during slavery. With this said, it is very important for Americans to understand the effect slavery has had on the South, but also America.

Many authors of literature and directors of film have tried to display slavery in their own way. Though some of show the true history of slavery, many of these novels and movies have become popular among Americans; even though they give a very vague or distorted look on the history of slavery. Some even show how slavery is right and how African-Americans wouldn't fit in a white society. These are a few movies and novels that were popular among the American people and that are still being shown in this time as slave history. The Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith, was the most popular film of the silent era. Its very innovative technique made it the most important silent film ever produced. But the film also provided historical justification for segregation and disfranchisement. The film sent a message that illustrated that reconstruction was a pure disaster, that African-Americans could never be integrated into white society as equals, and that the violent actions of the Ku Klux Klan were justified because they were necessary to reestablish legitimate and honest government. In the year 1939, one of Hollywood's most popular films Gone with the Wind hit America. Producer David Selznick had promised that the film would be "absolutely free of any anti-Negro propaganda." But the film presented, in the words of one critic, "a reassuring portrayal of antebellum gentility, racial harmony, and black docility." Although it did not use white actors in blackface, like Birth of a Nation, its depiction of enslaved African Americans as loyal but scatter-brained house servants and trembling, clumsy field hands conformed to earlier stereotypes. On the other hand, there were novels in American society that gave a truly great insight on the life of slavery. Frederick Douglass' writings contributed to the list of great novels. The importance of Frederick Douglass lies in his advocating social justice for a group of underrepresented people. He did this by identifying the problems of slavery and discrimination, and then generating activism to change the government's faulty policies. This activism took the forms of lobbying government officials and generating citizen support. His intent was also to prepare a plan to free slaves, in the event that the War was not won by the North. Furthermore, by utilizing communication and promoting education he was able to influence American citizens and people worldwide to consider slavery and discrimination of different classes of people as intolerable.

Americans are taught that slavery was simple and it was a cut and dry period of American history. Most of society knows that slavery existed and was abolished at some point. But they fail to realize the complexity and controversy of the institution of slavery and this is a major part that we as an educated American society need to understand. Most novels describe slaves and slave owners in a way that is easily understandable, but in reality the slave society was a complex web. Slavery: History and Historians, written by Peter Parish, states " slave society was the society of the double standard, adopted for its own convenience by the slave-owning class and forced upon slaves by the simple need to survive." Parish conveys that there were more issues to deal with then just the regularly stated economic interest and social standing, "The master claimed the absolute right of an owner over his property, but he was also restrained by the conventional morality of his time, his own standards of decency, the precepts of his religious faith, and the pressure of the white community." This shows an aspect of the master that few historical books dare to define as a part of slavery. The debate of slavery is usually focused on the Southern part of America and many historians "have contributed powerfully to the modern debate about southern slavery." But much of the current graphic and historical argument has been formed " three deeply flawed works which aroused such a powerful critical reaction that they rewrote the agenda of slavery studies." One of these writings was from southern historian of slavery, Ulrich B. Phillips. He based his work on broad research in plantation records but also "... on a deep attachment to the old South and a belief in black racial inferiority. His writing, American Negro Slavery, "he treated he slave as the beneficiary of a patriarchal but unprofitable institution designed to maintain the South's cardinal principle of white supremacy. The framework established by Phillips and his followers cast the slaves themselves primarily in the role of objects, whether as victims or beneficiaries." A main focus was on the treatment of slaves, how well the slave economy was and the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of slave labor. As Parish later states that one of the remarkable characteristics of Philips' work was its longevity with in history. "It survived for thirty years, at least, as the conventional wisdom on the subject..." This is a main advocate for why Americans have a blurred perception on the truth of slavery. Historians allowing works to be passed on through the years as an accurate form on the truth of slavery while other important writings are dismissed because society sees it as "anti-slavery propaganda"



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