Thursday, October 14, 2010

Harriet Ann Jacobs

"I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered slaves in America."

-Harriet Ann Jacobs

"Better to die free than to live in chains"

-timeless quotation

This single passage in and of itself is only sixteen words long, but tells an entire generation's worth of hopes and wishes. It's a difficult concept for me, as a white male living in the modern age to really wrap my head around. The epigraph at the beginning of "Incidents" manages to put this loss for words of mine at a very eloquent explanation. "Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, Slavery; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown". To say it in a more modern tone "You kinda had to be there."
This applies to me, just replace "Northerners" with "anyone who was not a slave". We cannot even go as far as to grasp the profundity of what it means to be a slave. Do we sit at home and ponder the advantages of starvation, and destitution? We cannot, our lives cannot compare to the realty that hundreds of thousands of African Americans lived with in those times. For many of them it was their entire lives, most slaves who lived in that era did not live to see freedom, it gives the term "from the cradle to the grave" an even more frightening connotation.
As if to drive this point even further home, while doing research for this very journal entry, I happened across a yahoo answers page started by an anonymous person, with the simple question "is there anywhere in the world where slavery is still legal?" The asker's motives were pure, they were trying to culminate knowledge, probably for another school project, not unlike myself. The question itself is not the point I'm trying to make, what really stood out to me were the answers the inquiry received. In droves, the cliches piled, angry suburban kids who could only think to compare themselves to slaves, because their parents made them rake the yard, mow the lawn, take out the trash, walk the dogs or do the dishes. The comparison, to me, is staggering. I will concede that yahoo answers is a TERRIBLE place to do any kind of research at all, since it is a website infamous for disinformation, joke answers, and a minefield of the extraordinarily ignorant dregs of internet culture, but my point remains valid. Can these children say the same that Jacobs said? Would they rather live free in poverty, as the poorest and hungriest of street urchins, if it meant they no longer had to live under the tyranny of their parents and household chores? I think the question they should rather be asking themselves is could they survive even a day outside of mom and dad's protection? Randomly stumbling upon this page really kind of opened my eyes to the realness of Jacob's statement, she'd rather starve as a free woman than live another day as a slave.

1 comment:

  1. 30/40 Again quite well written and thoughtful (and I agree the Yahoo answers quotes are fascinating and appaling).

    However the assignment asks you to do specific research online about Jacobs. Not about stuff in general. So to earn full points you'll need to amp up the Internet Research Quotes angle next time.

    Include graphics? They seem to add an extra dimension!

    You might want to look at sample student journal links from Winter 2010 on the E1B blog for examples of what I'm looking for.