Slavery is one of the historical events that characterize the American society since many people lost their lives in trying to prevent it while others decided to shift to other places, particularly in the neighboring countries owing the conditions that were unfavorable to human survival. Through an analysis of the narratives of slaves, it is reported that many Black people were treated in the most inhumane way, with some slaves observing that dogs could be given an honorable treatment as compared to African Americans (Joyner 89).
This means that the conditions in which African-Americans lived in were terrible and a number of them had nothing to do, but simply to live with the problem (Joyner 89). When the fight for slavery came, many slaves preferred to die while trying to liberate the entire society rather than live under unbearable conditions. After the American Civil War, several black people were willing to give an account of what happened before, during, and after slavery.
Despite the fact that the injustice, which slaves suffered at the time, concerned pretty much the same issues, i.e., inhumane treatment and awful living conditions and entailed mostly the same consequences for slaves, e.g., unbelievably high death rates, the interviews taken from two Black people after the slavery epoch reveal completely different attitudes towards slavery as a phenomenon and, therefore, display the complicated conflict within the Black community of the time, thus, proving that giving has-been slaves freedom was only one part of the solution, whereas the other one was helping Black people realize what liberty had to offer.
George Johnson gives a different account of slavery and slave trade, which suggests that slave owners never took men through difficult conditions, such as unnecessary beating and molestation, mainly because of their physical strength. However, many young energetic men were never allowed to move freely and they were mainly kept at the mining fields until late hours of the day probably to weaken them.
When the time for disposal came, men were never evaluated to establish whether they were productive, but instead they were priced based on their heath and the ability to perform farm activities (White 114).
Apart from working in the mining fields and performing other tasks in the farm, men were likely to be considered for craftwork, something that women would not be allowed to do (Douglass 24). Johnson notes that men were always consulted over the change of schedule as far as work was concerned, but women would simply be introduced to new tasks each day without prior information.
Unlike the Mississippi resident, George Johnson, who focused on the difference in complexities faced by Black men and women during the era of slavery (Johnson part 2), as well as the insane demands towards the productivity of slaves and the inhumane working conditions, Harriet Smith preferred to expand on the relationships between the so-called “masters” and the slaves.
Although the interactions between slaves and their masters are rarely touched upon compared to the conditions that slaves had to live in, they can be viewed as a nonetheless important factor in defining moods among slaves and their will to gain their rights and freedoms.
While the interview with Harriet Smith does not provide much information concerning the social injustice that the African American population was suffering, it still gives enough food for thoughts in terms of the attitudes among the members of the Black community (Washington 27).
Another important difference between the facts provided by the Mississippi resident, George Johnson, and the Texas dweller, Aunt Harriet, concerns the congruence of the phenomena witnessed by the narrator and the factors that induced these phenomena, as well as the specific behavioral patterns that African American people preferred to choose in their relations with the white population.
In other words, Harriet Smith exposes the cultural policies towards the Black population and the tools that were used to shape their concept of social justice. As Mrs. Smith recalls, she and other African Americans were preached to by the local “preacher”: “They wasn’t educated, you know, and they uh, uh, would, would tell you how to do, and how to get along, you know, and how to treat the white people and so on.
And they’d read the Bible then, you know” (Smith part 4). True, Harriet Smith also mentions the problems that women were to endure at the time: “Ma and them used to go to dances with the white folks” (Smith part 4), yet the emphasis on the gender issues in Smith’s interview is considerably lower.
In summary, the two interviews show that the issue of slavery was much more complicated than it might have seemed at the first glance. The fact that corporal punishment, or “whipping,” as Harriet Smith referred to it, was taken as something absolutely ordinary and that being someone’s property was an acceptable idea is truly atrocious.
More to the point, while the interview conducted with George Johnson merely shows the horrors of the slavery epoch, the one with Harriet Smith reveals the fact that very few Black people actually believed that something could be changed and, more importantly, needed to be changed.
Thus, the two interviews have shown that, even as the shameful slavery epoch ended, the Black community still had to make a huge effort in learning to live in an entirely new environment; and, much to their credit, the African American people managed to prove their self-sufficiency, pride and will to be independent.
Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New York City, NY: Collier Books, 1962. Print.
Johnson, George. Personal interview. Mount Bayou, MI. 1941.
Joyner, Charles. Down by the Riverside: a South Carolina Slave Community. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1984. Print.
Smith, Harriet. Personal interview. Hempstead, TX. 1941.
Washington, Booker. Up from Slavery: An Autobiography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963. Print.
White, Deborah. Aren’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. New York City, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1985. Print.