Please consider the following questions as guidelines as you formulate your analysis of slave narratives written by black autobiographers:

As we observed during the first few weeks of class, the ways that ancient civilizations in Egypt and Greece represented people of African descent contrasted sharply with images that became normative especially after 1700 when American slavery and European colonization began to flourish. The public image of African Americans as non-humans, codified in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1798), expressed a racial mythology or ideology. According to slave narratives written by Frederick Douglass, Harriett Jacobs, and William Wells Brown, this racialized worldview extended into slave owners’ interpretations of Christian morality. Although black autobiographers certainly describe the physical horrors of slavery, they place special emphasis on the psychological and ideological aspects of slavery, which suggests that this ideology was foundational to the development and maintenance of American slavery. This essay exam should therefore examine the viewpoints of ex-slave writers regarding the dynamics of power. Outside information concerning these writers’ biographies and/or other outside material should not be included in this assignment, and will therefore detract from your grade. All essays should include a clearly stated thesis. In addition, all statements must be supported by specific examples in the texts—specific phrases, statements, characters, scenes, etc. The essay exam is not an editorial. All papers must include proper documentation. Please consider the following questions as guidelines as you formulate your analysis of slave narratives written by black autobiographers:
1. Douglass, Brown, and Jacobs wrote extensively about the laws, codes, customs, and stereotypes that sanctioned American slavery. But in your reading of slave narratives, can you also think of any passages where writers expressed regret for their actions? What was the writer’s main point?
2. According to at least one writer we studied this semester, the experiences of female slaves were more traumatic than those of male slaves. Why? How did race and gender politics enhance slave owners’ profits? In other words, how did slavery profit from practices that were particularly cruel to both black women and men? And regarding black women specifically, how did Christian slave owners’ racial ideology enable them to profit from adultery?
3. During your reading of slave narratives, what did you learn about the different attitudes between slaves and slave owners toward Christian morality? In what ways did slaves’ interpretations of Christianity differ from those of their masters?
4. In your reading of the slave narratives, how did slave owners’ attitudes toward Christianity influence their treatment of slaves? In what ways do early black autobiographers depict racial ideology intertwining with slave owners’ notions of Christianity? Explain briefly with specific examples.
5. In what ways do slave narratives refute or counteract basic aspects of racial ideology (often reflected in racial stereotypes, caricatures, etc.) which essentially suggests that people of African descent aren’t fully or equally human beings? For instance, in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the entry for “negro” stated that black people are “strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself.” How do Douglass, Jacobs, and Brown refute this idea? In your reading of slave narratives, and your recollections of class discussions, can you identify and examine scenes and situations where slave narratives counter or address misrepresentations of African Americans?
6. In the slave narratives, what evidence have you found that suggests that slave owners were hypocritical in their approaches to Christianity? How do the writers portray slave owners’ religious attitudes? What evidence can you produce to support your explanation? Why did Douglass include his Appendix in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?
7. In several class sessions, we discussed slaves’ use of trickster-strategies as coping mechanisms during slavery. What evidence do slave narratives provide to demonstrate that slaves used various sorts of wit and cunning? For instance, what sorts of strategies did Jacobs use in her battle with Dr. Flint? How did Douglass improve his reading skills?
8. In what ways did the writings of Douglass, Jacobs, and Brown differ in style and tone? Explain briefly with specific examples.
9. When Douglass, Jacobs, and Brown engaged in social criticism, what are some of the stories, images, and terminology (e.g. specific words) that reflect their authors’ criticisms of slavery as a system?
Please note: At least half of your essay must focus upon Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In addition, although it’s customary and often necessary to quote words and passages to support your ideas and demonstrate your knowledge of the material, it’s also important to minimize what you quote. You should quote only what is necessary to reinforce your idea. Remember, your “reader” can read the book on his or her own time. He or she is interested in learning what you know about this subject matter.

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