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SLAVERY AS IT WAS: CULTURE, DISSENT AND THE PECULIAR INSTITUTION Jason H. Silvennan Harriet A. Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Gir~ J:Vritten byllt"rself,Jean Fagan Yellin1 ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.xx.xiv+ 306pp. Illus. Sterling Stuckey. Slave Culture: Nationalist Theoryand the Foundations of Black America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.x + 425 pp. Howard Jones. Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. lX + 271pp. Five years ago at a conference on the study and teaching of Afro-American history, the eminent historian John Hope Franklin stated that [a]s a relatively new field, at least only recently recognized as a respectable field of intellectual endeavor, [Afro-American history] is alive and vibrant . . . . It provides ... a very important context in which much, if not the whole, of the history of the United States can be taught and studied. It also provides an important context in which much of the history of the United States can be reexamined and rewritten .1 While it is true that Franklin was speaking of Afro-American historiography in general, the three books under review certainly serve to corroborate his point. Stuckey and Jones establish new vantage points from which to observe familiar topics and, in the process, convincingly place their studies within the social fabric of all of American history. Yellin's edited version of the Jacobs narrative proffers a rare, first-hand female account of slavery every bit as compelling and significant as the more famous ones 'Writtenby men such as Frederick Douglass. Indeed, the Jacobs narrative powerfully decries the twin towers of oppression--racism and sexism--as no male-authored account could do. "Reader, be assured this narrative is no fiction," writes Harriet Jacobs in the preface to her account of life in bondage. "Iam aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are nevertheless, strictly true 04 (l). And, at times, the plot of this narrative does strain credulity. Born in North 100 Jason H. Silverman Carolina around 1813, Harriet Jacobs, at age eleven, became the property of a young girl whose father, Dr. Flint, would harass her sexually for the rest of his life. While Dr. Flint never raped Jacobs or allowed her to be whipped, from the time she reached puberty he was obsessed with making her his mistress. When Jacobs fell in love with a free black man, Flint became enraged and forbade her marrying him. In defiance, Jacobs became the mistress of a neighboring white lawyer, Mr. Sands, and bore him two children who, by the laws of slavery, assumed the slave status of their mother. Banished by Flint to another of his plantations and tormented by the threat of losing her children, Jacobs escaped and hid in a three-foot garret above her grandmother's home for some seven years. The lion's share of Jacobs's account concerns her tireless campaign to save her children and herself from slavery. From her garret sanctuary, Jacobs wrote letters and had them mailed to Flint from Boston and New York. As Yellin explains in her preface, Jacobs "uses her garret cell as a war room from which to spy on her enemy and to wage psychological warfare against him. From her cramped hiding place, she manipulates the sale of her children to their father, arranges for her daughter to be taken north, tricks her master into believing that she has left the South, and quite literally directs a performance in which Dr. Flint plays the fool while she watches, unseen"(xxviii). First published in 1861 with the help of Northern abolitionists, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was prepared for publication by the noted editor and writer, Lydia Maria Child. Child, however, significantly rearranged sections of the manuscript, putting all of the cruelties into one chapter so that, as she put it, "those who shrink from 'supping upon horrors' might omit them, without interrupting the thread of the story"(xxii). Perhaps because of its literary style, reminiscent of a sentimental novel, or because of the neatness or contrivance of...


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