Although the story is narrated from the third-person perspective, the primary source chosen for the analysis can be defined as an autobiography since the events described in it occurred in the authors’ life as well.
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The autobiography was published under the title of Leaves from a Slave’s Journal of Life.
The autobiography was written by Lewis Clarke, a former slave, who not only survived the trials and tribulations of slavery but also left notable heritage by describing his experience.
The work was published in 1842. Naturally, the process of writing it took quite a lot of time and was started considerably earlier. Nevertheless, the book represents the era of slavery outstandingly well, serving as the reminder of how far injustice may go.
The excerpt from the autobiography describes the life of an African American slave in a very graphic and, therefore disturbing way. The atrocious manner of treating African American people as inferior beings is portrayed in the excerpt in a most disturbing fashion. For instance, Clarke mentions corporal punishments often, detailing the absurd pretexts under which slaves were publically executed in the first half of the 19th century. The author calls for justice and equality in his autobiography, reasonably adding that none of the White Americans would bear to watch their wives and children being treated the same way. Furthermore, Clarke provides a summary of interviews with the representatives of the Black community, addressing the issue of racial slurs and the way in which African Americans identified themselves at the time. Specifically, the history of the most notorious racial slurs is explored briefly.
In the middle of the 19th century, social tensions in the United States peaked. The Civil War was about to erupt, and the absurdity of slavery had to be addressed so that the phenomenon could be in eradicated after the war was over. Claiming that the end of the war meant that slavery was erased from the economic and social environment of America completely would be quite a stretch. For all slaves to be liberated and that provided with an opportunity to integrate into the society, a massive social change had yet to take place. Nevertheless, evidence from the people that were suffering the oppression had to be provided, which was one of the reasons or the autobiography to be published.
Causing very strong emotions, the autobiography leads to the question of how the phenomenon as atrocious as slavery could have existed. Furthermore, one may wonder how the African American community managed to survive the horrendous era. Finally, it would be peculiar to trace the effects that slavery has had on the current intercultural relationships, i.e., the communication between African Americans and the rest of the U.S. population.
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Frame of Reference
Being told from the perspective of a former slave, the autobiography has a truly unique frame of reference. It sheds light on the way in which the relationships between the two races developed. Furthermore, it is quite remarkable that the author does not view White Americans as the epitome of evil but, instead, calls for social justice.
The Most Powerful Line
Tackling one of the most controversial social issues in history, the autobiography has a plethora of lines that render the readers’ heartstrings. However, the final paragraph in which the author asks the readers to stand in his shoes must be the crux of the story: “Now who among you would like to have your wives, and daughters, and sisters, in such a situation? This is what every slave in all these States is exposed to” (Holitz 238). The line reads like a cry for help and makes one question the concept of humanity and how it manifests itself in the modern world.
Holitz, John. “History ‘From the Bottom up’: Historians and Slavery.” Thinking Through the Past, edited by John Holitz, vol. 2, Cengage Learning, 2014, pp. 227-248.