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ARIN KEEBLE Race and American Literature: Session 1.

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1 ARIN KEEBLE Race and American Literature: Session 1

2 Race is one of the most important themes in American literature and betrays a central paradox at the heart of American consciousness – why is this? (think of what you might know about America’s national origins and slavery / the slave trade).

3 EXCERPT: WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, THAT AMONG THESE ARE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. — THAT TO SECURE THESE RIGHTS, GOVERNMENTS ARE INSTITUTED AMONG MEN, DERIVING THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED, — THAT WHENEVER ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES DESTRUCTIVE OF THESE ENDS, IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR TO ABOLISH IT, AND TO INSTITUTE NEW GOVERNMENT, LAYING ITS FOUNDATION ON SUCH PRINCIPLES AND ORGANIZING ITS POWERS IN SUCH FORM, AS TO THEM SHALL SEEM MOST LIKELY TO EFFECT THEIR SAFETY AND HAPPINESS. Declaration of Independence July,

4 He was talking to his pupils and I heard him say “which one are you doing?” And one of the boys said, “Sethe.” That’s when I stopped because I heard my name, and then I took a few steps to where I could see what they were doing....I heard him say, “No, no. That’s not the way. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right. And don’t forget to line them up. (Beloved, 193)

5 Slavery By 1787 the year of the Constitution of the new United States of America (independence from Britain was won in 1783) there were 2,500,000 people in North America, one fifth of whom were African slaves. - Vivienne Sanders, Race relations in the USA (London: Hodder Murray, 2006), p.6.

6 Slavery Chronology 1662The Virginia Assembly dictate that the child follows the condition of the Mother- partus sequitur ventrem. Maryland clung to the opposite to Over time the so-called ‘drop of ink’ formulation was established. 1663Maryland declared all black people to be slaves, no matter their current condition 1700Text by Samuel Sewall, ‘The selling of Joseph’ account of slave’s life In America: John Saffin’s ‘Reply’ sets out first pseudo-scriptural apology for slavery ‘The Great Awakening’, effect of democratising salvation 1780’sUnderground Railroad, begun by Quakers- at its height in 1830’s Key sites: Cincinnati and Wilmington 1788First use of term ‘Middle Passage’, by Thomas Clarkson in essay entitled ‘An Essay on the Impolicy of the African Slave Trade’ 1793Discovery of cotton gin Second ‘Great Awakening’, stressed a social gospel, temperance etc. 1808African slave trade abolished 1820s/30sGradual removal of Indians from Deep South 1831November: William Lloyd Garrison formed the New England Anti- Slavery Society.

7 The Middle Passage

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9 Historians suggest that: 13 million slaves were transported to the Americas 3 million died en route

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11 Slavery Chronology 1850Fugitive Slave Act- The ‘Missouri Compromise’ strengthened the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act, making it a crime for Northerners to aid and abet escaped slaves 1857Dred Scott decision (6 th March) Negroes do not have human rights- Justice Roger Tanney resided American Civil War between the 11 ‘Slave States’ of the South and the Northern and border states – slavery is the key area of dispute. Jim Crow Laws- attempt to nullify/minimise black enfranchisement million slaves in USA compared to 3 million in An estimated 20% of all slave families broken by sales. Historians estimate that by C.W. 10% of southern black population were mulattos. (McMillen) 1863Emancipation Proclamation (effectively demanded loyalty to USA rather than granting freedom to slaves) 1866Founding of Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee by Nathan Bedford Forrest 1870Powers enacted to suppress Klan terrorism, but lynching continued. Between 1885 and 1917 there were 2734 blacks were lynched. 1870passing of 15 th amendment grants suffrage to black males 1896Plessey v. Fergusson ruled ‘separate but equal.’ Homer Plessey was an Octoroon who agreed to test case by sitting in a ‘whites only’ first class carriage.

12 SelectedLiterary Heritage Controversial canonical Literary Representation of Slavery:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe (1952)  Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain (1888) Slave Narratives  The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave (1825)  Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)  Frederick Douglass (1845)

13 SelectedLiterary Heritage African American Literature: Arna Bontemps, Black Thunder (1936) Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man (1952) Maya Angelou, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) Margaret Walker, Jubilee (1966) Alex Hayley Roots (1976) Toni Morrison Beloved (1987)

14 Morrison has on more than one occasion aserted that she writes from a double perspective of accusation and hope, of criticising the past and caring for the future. - Ashraf H. A. Rushdy

15 ‘To think clearly about race, then, requires us to see the world on a split screen- to maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is.’ - Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2008), p.233.

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