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Toni Morrison, Beloved & the legacy of slavery. Redefining African American Identity Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931 Family part of.

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Presentation on theme: "Toni Morrison, Beloved & the legacy of slavery. Redefining African American Identity Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931 Family part of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Toni Morrison, Beloved & the legacy of slavery

2 Redefining African American Identity Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931 Family part of great 20 th century migration of African Americans away from the oppression of the Jim Crow south to northern cities. Morrison was important in rise of African American literature and studies, both as teacher at Howard University, as an editor at Random house Her work has helped redefine African American identity and experience.

3 Her Body of Work Morrison has won the National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature for a body of work that includes. The Bluest Eye, 1969 Sula, 1974 Song of Solomon, 1977 Tar Baby, 1981 Beloved, 1987 Jazz, 1992 Paradise, 1999 Love, 2003 A Mercy, 2008

4 America & the Scars of Slavery Though Morrison’s work has focused on black experience, and particularly on the experience of Black women, she long avoided subject of slavery. Considered taboo within her own family and culture. Too big, too traumatic, too embittering, too hard to face. Morrison has said that America too has willfully repressed the memory and shame of slavery, leaving the millions of slavery’s victims “disremembered and unaccounted for.” But the “ghosts of the dead,” as she refers to the millions lost to slavery, “haunted” her.

5 Slavery in America: In 17 th Century Colonial America, slavery included white indentured servants, Native Americans, and African Slaves. Laws passed that differentiated between the groups, and removed all legal protection and human rights for African Slaves. The cotton and tobacco trade explodes in the American South, bringing with it an insatiable need for cheap, forced labor. African slave trade: Mass captures and kidnapping—millions brought across the Middle Passage to the Americas.

6 An Unprecedented Brutality In its scale and scope, slavery in 18 th Century America becomes a soul-destroying brutality unprecedented in human history. Slavery became a life sentence. Worse yet, it became generational Young women valued as breeding stock. Loss of children, confiscated from mothers and sold at auction, became the hardest burden of all to bear. Hundreds of thousands risked all to escape to North.

7 A couple of relevant particulars The Middle Passage g/wiki/Middle_Passag e g/wiki/Middle_Passag e The Fugitive Slave Acts, and their effects The Ohio River and Cincinnati, Ohio.

8 Back to Morrison & Beloved Beloved her masterpiece. Chosen in 2000 as the most important novel of the 20 th century in America. Importance in terms of themes, stylistic innovations and national identity. Haunted by ghosts of slavery’s past. Beloved appears to Morrison “out of the water” (read excerpt from Forward) “Trying to make the slave experience Intimate”

9 Morrison America & Slavery “There are no monuments to slavery.” We have chosen to turn away and forget, once again denying the humanity, dignity and identity of the enslaved. Literature must be their monument and collective memory Loving our country full means coming to terms with all of its past and heritage. To honor and remember the victims of slavery grants them their humanity and enriches our country. Morrison creates a kind of collective memory/consciousness of slavery and the slave experience.

10 Ways of reading the novel As a ghost story; a story about the haunting legacy of slavery on America As a slave narrative—the brutalities and inhumanities of slavery from the intimate perspective of the enslaved As a novel about motherhood and the intensity and complexity of maternal love and relationships As a novel about love and relationships As a novel about memory and history As a novel about dealing with a traumatic past and trying to build a better future: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome on both personal and national level.

11 Literary techniques to watch for Nonlinear structure: Interweaving of past and present in ways that go far beyond conventional use of flashbacks in literature. Biblical allusions and religious overtones Gothic novel re-imagined ; ghosts and thesupernatural Symbols & motifs Multiple, shifting narrative voices & points of view Strange sort of collective consciousness or memory

12 Sources “The Writer’s Almanac,” Garrison Keillor, American Public Radio Yale-New Haven Teacher’s Instititue, “This Is Not a Story to Pass On”: Teaching Toni Morrison’s Beloved, by Sophie Bell “Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” by Pauls Harijs Toutonghi, from American Writers Classics, Vol. 2. “The History of Slavery in America”: “Slavery and the Making of America.” PBS.


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