Monday, January 29, 2007

#22 - Incidents in the Life of a Slavegirl by Linda Brent

"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl'' is the autobiographical account of a black woman's life as a slave in North Carolina just before the Civil War. Her name was Harriet Jacobs, but she wrote under the pseudonym Linda Brent.

Harriet Jacobs wrote down the story of her life in her late adult years, after her escape North to New York. The narrative talks about her experiences from the time she first realized she was a slave at age 6, to her life after her escape.

As a mother, I had a difficult time reading this book. Not only was Jacobs removed from her parents' care at an early age, but her children were also subject to sale, abuse and poor treatment at the hands of others. Black women were also frequently forced into sexual relationships with slave owners. When the wives of plantation owners discovered their husbands had fathered children with slaves, the women and children were subject to abuse or faced being auctioned off to other land owners.

If you want a realistic account of what slavery was like for women and children, this book gives a good account. Not only does she tell about the abuse and hard labor, but also talks about how difficult it was to escape. She literally spent years in hiding in the south before being able to escape north.

This book made me really think about the history of North Carolina, where I now live. I grew up in Kansas. I saw a few instances of prejudice over the years....but really very few problems. In NC, racial tension is more prevalent. Even after more than 140 years, there are still major racial issues in the south.

I don't understand how some people can be so ignorant and stupid. There are fools here that display the rebel flag, spout the "N'' word, believe the crap spread by groups like the KKK, and who just generally behave like backwoods morons. I blame lack of education, poor upbringing, and maybe even a bit of inbreeding.

BUT......they are a small portion of people here. The majority of people I have met since moving to North Carolina 3 years ago have not been racially prejudiced. It's just too bad that the reputation of this section of the country can be tainted by a small sliver of the population.

Unfortunately, the racism goes both ways. When we lived in the midwest, my son had lots of friends who were black. Color wasn't a factor in choosing friends. Here in the south, there are many black families who don't want their children having white friends, and vice versa. And while my son would never spout racial insults, he has been on the receiving end of terms like "cracker,'' "whitey,'' "ghost'' and several other racial remarks directed at him by black students. Nobody says a word when kids like my son get called "Cracker,'' but all hell breaks loose if a white student calls a black an "N.'' Aren't both terms just as racially prejudiced??

It was major culture shock for us to move here.....there are unspoken "rules'' about things that seem absolutely ludicrous to those who weren't raised in the south. I am proud to say that my family were all German immigrants that came to the Midwest just before the Civil War -- nobody in my family ever owned slaves, or supported slavery in any way. And in my household, no racial slurs or prejudices are tolerated. Period. In my opinion, that's the way it should be. And anyone who thinks differently is not welcome in my home.

This book was very thought provoking, and although it was disturbing, I think it gave me a greater understanding of what it was like to be a slave. And it made me think a lot about how the history of slavery still affects the culture in the southern states.

I read this book before Christmas, but forgot to write a review of it. So here's the review....but it doesn't count toward my 2007 reading goal. Still at 2! :)


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