Kindred

h1 April 19th, 2013

Written by Ovtavia Butler, Kindred is a story about a young woman in the seventies that goes back in time to meet her ancestors and has the chance to change a few details.  Because time travel is a heavy theme, this novel is considered to be science fiction.  But I consider it to be more than some kind of fantasy story.  Because the topic of slavery did indeed exist in our history, to call it science fiction fantasy is contradicting.  The details that Octavia includes in the novel are so real.  As I read, I no longer paid attention to the time travel aspect of the novel.  I was more fascinated by th fact that a young African American woman from the 1970’s revisited the past, and was able to narrate from her perspective.  Most novels we readable narratives by actual slaves, but from Dana’s perspective brings a fiction twist, yet we are dedicated and invested because the theme is real and serious.   Another reason why the story is so interesting is the fact that Dana’s husband is a white man.  In the 1970’s, such a matter can pass in society.  But backin the 1800’s, and even Rufus said it himself, it is considered somewhat inappropriate.  The fact that Dana is protected by Kevin and we witness the effect ion he has towards her changes my view about slavery even further.  The fact that it’s very possible for two people to have such a strong bond makes me compare it to the time Dana goes back and witnesses how sometimes African Americans couldn’t marry or even be with one another out of pure injustice.

The beginning of the story was somewhat confusing, but as the story continued I became more interested as the major theme of time travel emerged.  Time travel provided two different views for me, the reader.  I witnessed Dana and Kevin try to cope with the idea of the possibility if time travel was real and they were victims of it.  And to watch them go back in time and cope with the fact that they were in the 1800’s and Dana was dealing with her ancestors.   And lastly, to witness Dana and Kevin return home and have trouble coping with their once normal lives.  To read that Dana sees the still icy meat was startling too. They had supposedly been absent for about five years, yet they were only gone for a few hours.

Although this story is considered fiction, it is real in so many ways.  The details were accurate and provided the reader with a different kind of narrative. It felt like a real narrative!  The details were precise and sounded like something from a narrative written by a slave.  For example, when Kevin tells Dana that he witnessed a baby hit the floor out of its mothers stomach, while the mother was being beaten.  Details like that we’re so hard to read and register, but in the back of my mind I knew this was once reality.  Octavia Butler did a great job writing a fictional story while capturing reality.

The Souls of Black Folk

h1 April 5th, 2013

The Souls of Black Folk is a literary text by W.E.B. Du Bois.  It contains a lot of historical text along side his own personal opinions own happenings that surrounded him.  In the video, the narrator of the video remarked that after Booker T. Washington had passed away, Du Bois took his chance to act a lot more than Washington, and went as far as saying that Du Bois thought Washington had not accomplished much.  To say that he had not accomplished much as an insult to human kind, in my opinion.  Considering the delicate and sensitive  topic of live segregation, any offer, attempt and actual accomplishment of improving the lives of African Americans is a milestone for history and the African Americans of that time and for present day.

To watch in the video in one city how African Americans exceeded in society and began to develop a new life of success really did lift my spirit.  To hear that they owned their own houses, owned blacksmith shops and created a new life of their own was a refreshing new page.  But to hear that right afterwards that the whites began to bombard the successful city was disturbing.  In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois explains how white men often misrepresented African Americans with negative characteristic traits.  In the video, we watched how Atlantic City was the most segregated city in the South.  Yet, African Americans had the opportunity to become successful in their own ways.  It was so sad to watch how mobs of one hundred or two hundred and even more began to invade properties of the African Americans.  We watched attacks, and how if one African American resisted a beating that was totally and incompletely unjustified he would continue to be brutally attacked that could turn fatal. During this time, it was described to us the condition convicts.  While some were completely innocent and stuck by their declared innocence until their death, most were treated awfully in prison.   It was explained that some of the African Americans were sentenced to two years in prison (while even being innocent) where as if a white man was accused of the same crime, he would have a lesser charge, that of about ninety days.  While African Americans would be convicted and imprisoned, their conditions were inhumane and were treated poorly.  Their health deteriorated due to the result of things like shackle poisoning, snake bites, scurvy and malaria.  All of these can be prevented, such as shackle poisoning and snake bites.  But even scurvy and malaria can be treated quickly when detected, and after diagnosis and treatment the chance of survival is definitely possible.  While W.E.B. Du Bois publicly expresses his concerns about issues in his time and day, he also addresses the issue of education.  From the video, we learned how Charlotte Hawkins Brown turned a blacksmith shed into a school for young  African American students.  This attempt to break through and against the wishes of the white men was a milestone, as it proved to be a common issue to be solved along side W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

Glory

h1 March 29th, 2013

Glory is a Great War movie as it gives viewers a vivid insight of accurate history.

The 54tb Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an army unit consisting of African American’s.  these African Americans volunteered to join the army, and even spoke about being excited about recieving a blue uniform.  Very few were free while most were still enslaved.

Actor Matthew Broderick played Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and I believe he did exceptionally well capturing a solid attitude and heartfelt behavior as leading Colonel, and there were some moments where I was extremely impressed by his nature towards the soldiers.

One of those moments in the film is when he bagan to properly discipline them.  When he finds them laughing and finding it to be joyful to shoot bottles under Major Cabot’s supervision, he acts on it. He stands behind one of the men and while shooting his pistol into the air and demands the soldier to prepare his weapon faster, yes, it is harsh, but I believe his intention was only for the best of the soldiers well beings. He even admits be doesn’t want the soldiers just to learn how to march, he wants them to prepare for real war and battle.

Another moment is when Trip is whipped for trying to find and take a pair of shoes. When Colonel Robert discovers his swollen feet filled with blisters andeanrs the rest of the men are in the same condition, he barges into the war supply building and demands a pair of shoes for every soldier, and even accuses the man working there to denying them shoes just because of thir skin color.  When the shoes arrive, and every soldier is seen to wear there shoes happily, Trip is seen lying on his stomach while a doctor is aiding him for his wounds.  Colonel Trip asked the doctor of he needs anything at all to help care for Trip. The doctor says no, and this scene tells plenty about Colonel Robert’s character. I got the idea that he regret what happened to Trip, and wanted to supply him with care.

The final moment where I was taken by and extremely impressed was the final scene. When Colonel Robert charges up the hill towards their enemy, he is shot the first time and when trying to fight back, he gets shot multiple times.  There is a quiet moment when his soldiers just stare in disbelief. Finally, Trip stands and takes the American flag and as the soldiers stand willing to fight , they charge up be hill.  Trip is shot multiple times and while still holding the American flag, he falls down to his death. The rest of the soldiers are seen to be fighting the harsh battle. The closing scene when the men are being buried hit home with me. Colonel Robert was a white man, and he was buried with his African American soldiers. To me, it wrapped up the entire theme of the novel, showing that they fought side by side and were ultimately buried side by side.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

h1 March 22nd, 2013

A narrative about a female slave named Linda Brent (really Harriet Ann Jacobs), Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl leads the reader through the life of Linda, and learns about the horrific details that she endured more than once from the master everyone called Dr. Flint.

As I began reading the narrative, there was one scene that caught me off guard (first of many scenes, actually) and caused me to somewhat foreshadow what kind of human being Dr. Flint was.  The scene I am talking about is the one where the cook offers food for the pet dog in Dr. Flints household.  Shockingly, and I say “shockingly” because I had to reread this scene numerous times just to confirm what I had read was correct, the dog drops dead soon after eating the food.  After Dr. Flint witnesses the entire dilemma, he forces the female cook to eat the food she offered the animal insisting that her stomach would be indeed stronger than the animals, and Linda writes “but her sufferings afterwards proved that he was mistaken”.  This very scene introduced the evil of Dr. Flint.  The way he quickly dehumanized the cook to the point where he forces her to some “Indian mush” offered to an animal.  The word “mush” itself sounds disgusting and awful, and absolutely not suitable for a human being.  And after the dog died minutes after the eating, he orders the cook to eat it, leading me to think…of course, Dr. Flint might have expected her to die soon afterwards just as the dog did. Perhaps dogs are not meant to eat “Indian mush” causing the dog to die. I only go into detail about this because I was entirely thunderstruck at such pain and injustice this poor cook endured, and it submitted Dr. Flint’s character as an evil one.

In chapter six, Linda titles it The Jealous Mistress.  She continues the narrative and begins this chapter with “I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America.”  This opening sentence swiftly lets us into her thoughts regarding her children.  For her to exaggerate and say “ten thousand times more” only proves how badly and desperately she hated the circumstances they are currently living in.  As a mother, she’s insisting that her children would be offered a better lifestyle had they be nearly starving in a foreign country.  But for her to admit that they were “the most pampered among the slaves of America” also says something as well.  She does not care or want the luxury of having an extremely wealthy master.  She might be implying she only wants happiness and better life for her children.  This sentence speaks plenty to the reader in regards to her maternal instincts, reference of her children and not herself, the humanity of her emotions, and at last the hate and despite she has towards the life her children had to live.

Linda Brent saw and endured plenty in her lifetime and this narrative is unlike the narratives we have read previously.  We are introduced to sexual abuse, and we read from a females perspective opening the eyes of the reader to a new outlook through the eyes of a female slave.

Frederick Douglas

h1 February 22nd, 2013

Frederick Douglas’ text My Bondage and My Freedom is a narrative about his life and is easy to read and understand.  He speaks with clarity to his readers giving the reader a good reason to keep reading on.

Like the slaved writers I have read before, Frederick is enslaved as well.  One of the first things he tells us is how living with his grandmother is like, and how he enjoyed life in his grandparents home where his grandfather was a free man while his grandmother still a slave.  Probably, for me at least, the most heartbreaking part of the beginning was reading about how he enjoyed his life with his grandmother while knowing she was owned by an unknown master.  And all while hardly not knowing who his mother was, while briefly mentioning he had not ever known his father, but word is he was a white man or almost white, and in fact he had an idea that his father was a master.

In the beginning, one of the saddest parts was reading about how he came to be alone and owned individually by a master.  The moment where he left his grandmothers house with her, and never returning.   I can’t imagine how terrifying it was when he came to realize his grandmother was no where in sight, and after searching and inquiring about her whereabouts, she was no where to be seen and he finally came to the conclusion that she had abandoned him.  The theme of abandonment was a major part of his life.  As his mother never really nurtured him and eventually died without him knowing any real details, and having an unknown father with no information at all, this final phase of abandonment is  critical in the life of a young boy.

Another form of abandonment comes when he meets his siblings for the first time.  Everyone knows that children often find comfort in other kids their age, especially their siblings.  Reading about how he met these strangers is quite concerning as a reader.  One begins to wonder how Frederick functioned normally like a human being, knowing he was abandoned left and right.

When Frederick witnessed the beating of his Aunt and the other female slave, its hard to grasp the thought that such a young child had access to such a sight.  Being so young and innocent, Frederick had already endured too much as a child.

When Frederick was left to his master, he kept frequently questioning why he it was happening.  His intellectual thoughts and questions were really smart for a child, and one could clearly see that he was young, but he was awake, aware and alert about his surroundings.

All these are contributing factors to an unhealthy childhood that Frederick had to live through.  But knowing he once lived happily at one point in his life, that in which he was living with his grandmother and grandfather, one can argue that his foundation is built on happiness and innocence before becoming enslaved by a master.

Venture Smith

h1 February 15th, 2013

Originally named Broteer, Venture Smith was a slave who was captured in Africa at a very young age.  He had a very hard life, constantly worked and fought setbacks that delayed any goals he had.

Being a young boy when captured in Africa, in his narrative he mentions the death of his father.  His father is described as having a large build (like Venture), and is brutally beaten, to the point of death.  Venture describes this event with little to no emotion at all.  As this is only the beginning of many hardships that Venture will endure, it is a start to many heartbreaks that trigger a block in emotion, or at least through his narrative.

According to Venture Smith’s narrative, he had many losses that caused setbacks in his life.  Once he was doing well and took notice of how much money he had earned, he would be deceived by someone causing him to lose pounds of money that he worked so hard for.  Venture also lost two of his children.  Soloman was sent to sea to become a sailor and Venture could not reach him in time to stop him.  Sadly, the worse case scenario occurred and Soloman lost his life to scurvy.  Smith’s daughter Hannah is mentioned of becoming sick that would become fatal.  After this “mortal disease” took her life, Soloman is mentioned to paying forty pounds to the physician for his service.  Perhaps, these heartbreaking events were indeed hard to endure, but being a man whose childhood roots come from sadness and injustice…maybe he has taught himself to have a heart of stone and has blocked himself from feeling any emotion.  Or maybe he did have plenty of emotions, and it may be that he could not communicate his feelings as he was a slave for the majority of his life and was unable and not allowed to speak about his feelings.

Being a free man after purchasing his own freedom, Venture describes a passage he had taken to New-London with a grandchild.  Although he is a free man, he is unlawfully accused of causing a loss of hogshead of molasses, and he was ordered to pay ten pounds of money.  He describes this as, “…another loss, far superior to this in value, and I think by no less wicked means.”

After being threatened to have the charge of ten pounds to increase through courts, he does pay the full amount.  But this does not stop the the man and Venture says, “…he has often since insultingly taunted me with my unmerited misfortune.”

The following passage is in my opinion, the closest thing to describing his emotions;

“Such a proceeding as this, committed on a defenseless stranger, almost worn out in the hard service of the world, without any foundation in reason or justice, whatever it may be called in a Christian land, would in my native country be branded a crime equal to highway robbery.  But Captain Hart was a white gentleman, and I a poor African, and therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog.”

He tries to describe that he is tired of working, to the point of almost becoming worn out due to hard labor.  Upon reading this, I could not believe that a human being can endure such injustice, to the point where he practically tries to say he is dehumanized because he was a poor African. And I know he is only one of the thousands of slaves that dealt with such extreme injustice.

Phillis Wheatley

h1 February 7th, 2013

Phillis Wheatley, a popular writer who began writing at a young age, was born around 1753 and was enslaved upon arriving in the United States.

While taking a general examination of  Phillis Wheatley’s book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, I found that Phillis Wheatley was a fan of politics and did not fear speaking publicly about her thoughts.  I found this to be an interesting and happy thought, as she was enslaved and she still had the power to speak her mind and gain fans along the way further leading to popularity.

But while reading further and further into the poems, one cannot deny the reoccurring common theme of death.  Thirteen of the poems were written on topic of the death of a person.  The titles are referenced with a mention of “…on the Death of…”.   Wheatley’s taking notice of the suffrage of others adds to her character as a kind, graceful and thoughtful young woman who went out of her way to dedicate poems that are meant to comfort and supply understanding if needed.  I cannot help but ponder on why she would dedicate these poems on the subject of death, though.  I can only conclude that while knowing Phillis Wheatley is enslaved, her journey began overseas.  And of course, to arrive to the United States, she had taken a slave ship.  Slave ships were in no way, shape or form healthy for human beings, and death was very common.  Knowing that Wheatley was transported on a slave ship, she must have seen death from a front row seat, far more up, close and personal than one can imagine.  Perhaps, the witnessing of death was so traumatic to her, she understand thoroughly what death is, and therefore provides understanding and comfort to those in need through the beauty of the poems she had written, which could easily be read and understood.

But to my delight, as I continued to read, I noticed two poems that caught my eye sharply.  To a LADY on her coming to North-America with her Son, for the Recovery of her Health, and To a GENTLEMEN on his Voyage to Great-Britain for the Recovery of his Health caught my attention because both titles halt strictly before death, and in fact some what shine light, only by the presence of hope portrayed by the titles.  The dedication to the hope of recovery changes things dramatically, and the mention of death is almost not an option. In fact, she says;

“Top hope thine aid without the aid of him

Who gave thee birth and taught thee where to flow, And in thy waves his various blessings show.

May R—- return to view his native shore

The wish for the gentlemen to return to his native shore is a far declare of comfort in regards to death.  If anything, it brings an uplifting reason of comfort through hope of recovery.  As much as Wheatley’s poems have a tone being politically radical, she also has an extreme trait for humility through religion and the theme of death.

Jupiter Hammon

h1 January 24th, 2013

Jupiter Hammon, who is considered a founding father of African American literature, was born in 1711 and was enslaved.  He was born in the Lloyd Manor.  He served three generations; Henry Lloyd, his sons, and also the grandson of John Lloyd.

As I read Jupiter Hammon’s poems An Evening Thought and An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley published in the late 1700’s, I was somewhat surprised that he had such strong faith.  His poems do not say anything else beyond religion, he mentions “Jesus”, “God”, and the “heavens” quite often.  But as religion centered as his poems were, and as little as outside of his faith do they speak-the poems also go above and beyond religion.  This strong voice of life through religion impressed me deeply at the strength of his ability to maintain such strong morals, values and principals of faith-while sending his point across to those who resemble the desire for education and intellectualism as he had.  Jupiter’s ability to become such a strong influential figure of his time who felt a need to write quite often is impressive.  He did not hesitate to express his thoughts in An Evening Thought and An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley, publicly to be heard during his time and to later be studied in today’s world.

His letters to Phillis Wheatley were professional in my opinion.  As a man in his sixties, his action of reaching out to a young slave in her twenties was not strange at all as they had the common trait of intellectualism and education.  The status that he created for himself, that being a guide and mentor, a leader, earned him a great reputation, especially with his reputation as a religious person.  His ability to hold himself back from becoming to political also impressed me.  He always referred to God and the heavens.  It makes me realize his strong religious status was so dedicated to God, I wonder what were his thoughts beyond this life.

In the poem An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley, Hammon writes,

“While thousands tossed by the sea,

And others settled down, Death.

God’s tender mercy set thee free,

From dangers still unknown.”

This stanza is quickly followed with the mention of Jesus in the next three stanzas, and also mentions the act of sinning and repentance.  The theme of religiosity is extremely obvious.  The mention of being tossed by the sea is very dark, negative, but also shines light on the reader quickly by describing the mercy of God and the presence of Jesus.

As Jupiter Hammon speaks directly to Phillis Wheatley, he says;

“Thou, Philiis, when though hunger hast,

Or pantest for the God;

Jesus Christ is my relief,

Thou hast the holy word.”

Jupiter openly says that Jesus is his relief  his comfort.  It’s different than Wheatley’s writing, as Jupiter goes deeply into detail about religion while Wheatley, a patriot, has a more political radical tone in her writing.  One can see the relationship formed between the two poets, as one is a young  twenty year old and the other being a sixty year old taking the role as a mentor and leader to guide Phillis, but also the rest of the intellects due to his public conversation with her and the theme of religion surrounding his poems.

Electronic Literature

h1 January 22nd, 2013

In the article Electronic Literature & The Reader’s Deadline, Alan Jacobs is quoted saying “I got into trouble a while ago for saying that I thought the internet led to increased literacy –…”.

While this quote stands, I do certainly believe that the increase in technology in today’s society has caused us to advance in many different fields.  But what is concerning is the use of technology by younger children who think (or trained!) to believe that computers and/or iPad’s were invented for the sole purpose of games, or entertainment in general-nothing that includes education.  Maybe generations to come should be educated on technology-and the expansion of (almost) limitless educated connections that go above and beyond our expectations.

The Extent of Our Decline is a perfect outlook on readings.  Kyle Beachy says,

“Today’s novel has to be an exercise of both the mind and heart, physical at times like a finger in the eye. I’m not sure I can any longer cringe at film, but I do regularly when reading long fiction. This cringe is effect, feeling, something increasingly rare and thus a reward.”

I was thrilled to read this.  Thrilled because it’s relieving to know others feel the same way in regards to the physical act of reading, and the emotional and mental roller coaster that comes with it.  The “reward” is universal.  And without it-only one can wonder how communication can be formed.