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My Souls Often Wondered How I Got Over…: Fiction, the Historical Imagination, and Teaching American Slavery. North American History Teachers Network Event:

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Presentation on theme: "My Souls Often Wondered How I Got Over…: Fiction, the Historical Imagination, and Teaching American Slavery. North American History Teachers Network Event:"— Presentation transcript:

1 My Souls Often Wondered How I Got Over…: Fiction, the Historical Imagination, and Teaching American Slavery. North American History Teachers Network Event: Teaching Race and Slavery to Undergraduates. University of East Anglia, 25th Jan 2013

2 But a deed of horror had been consummated, for weltering in its blood, the throat being cut from ear to ear and the head almost severed from the body, upon the floor lay one of the children of the younger couple, [also] a girls three years old, while in a back room, crouched beneath the bed, two more of the children, boys, of two and five years, were moaning the one having received two gashes in its throat, the other a cut in the head…as the party entered the room the mother was seen wielding a heavy shovel, and before she could be secured she inflicted a heavy blow with it upon the face of the infant which was lying upon the floor. Stampede Of Slaves, Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan 29 th 1856

3 University of East Anglia, 25th Jan 2013 In the house were found four adults, viz: Old Simon and his wife, and young Simon and his wife and four children of the latter, the oldest near six years and the youngest a babe of about nine months. One of these, however, was lying on the floor dying its head cut almost entirely off. There was also a gash about four inches long in the throat of the oldest, and a wound on the head of the other boy. Arrest of Fugitive Slaves: A Slave Mother Murders her Child rather than see it returned to Slavery. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Jan 29 th 1856

4 University of East Anglia, 25th Jan 2013 She was squatting in the garden and when she saw them coming and recognized schoolteachers hat, she heard wings. Little hummingbirds stuck their needle beaks right through her headcloth into her hair and beat their wings. And if she thought anything, it was No, No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them though the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe. And the hummingbird wings beat on. Toni Morrison, Beloved. London: Picador, 1987.

5 University of East Anglia, 25th Jan 2013 I think it's the sense that for every character you create you have to give them their due. There is a character in The Known World 'who is crippled, for instance, who is the most angelic person in the whole book. You don't have to spend a lot of time on her. Good people come with their own stories because they are not a lot of good people in the world. There are a ton of bad people and you have to explain how they got to the bad part of their lives. That becomes the challenge. Now when I sit down to start writing, I don't think about this. Maryemma Graham and Edward P. Jones, An Interview with Edward P. Jones African American Review, 42:3/4, (Winter 2008), pp , 427.

6 University of East Anglia, 25th Jan 2013 [Rather than] invoking community as an ideal of homogeneity or selfsameness or as an arena of idealized values in opposition to the conflicts and violence of the social order [as Blassingame did], we must grapple with the differences that constitute community and the particular terms of communitys enactment in their specificity. Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America. Oxford University Press, 1997, 61.


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