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Four Prophetic Journeying The Trope of Travel in Black Women Preachers’ Narratives In an 1826 travel sketch describing a trip on a steamboat across the Canadian lakes, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that as a passenger, one is afforded “opportunities for a varied observation of society.” Hawthorne observed from what he described as a “spacious” ship, that “there were three different orders of passengers: an aristocracy, in the grand cabin and ladies saloon; a commonality in the forward cabin; and lastly, a male and female multitude on the forward deck.”1 Hawthorne’s “varied observation” indicates that a large and diverse group of people was traveling in nineteenth-century America. The sketch indicates as well that clear class and gender categories separated travelers and went unquestioned , even by Hawthorne. Writing as a passenger “in the grand cabin,” Hawthorne describes the condition of travel and his fellow travelers from a position of privilege, glossing over passengers of the other sections as the “commonality” and “multitudes.” His observation, “varied ” as it tries to be, nonetheless ignores consideration of the individuals who were on the decks, their purposes for travel, and their destinations. Yet these “multitudes” can tell us much more about American society from their own “varied observations.” Among those traveling on the decks of such steamboats were prophesying daughters such as Jarena Lee and Julia Foote. Their accounts of their excursions contrast greatly with Hawthorne’s. Describing her voyage on a similar steamboat ride to Ontario in the early 1800s, Jarena 1. Alfred Weber, Beth L. Lueck, and Dennis Berthold, eds., Hawthorne’s American Travel Sketches, 49. 51 ied”as it seems to be, nonetheless ignores consideration of the individuals who were on the decks, their purposes for travel, and their destinations . Yet these “multitudes” can tell us even more about American society from their own “varied observations.” ied” as it seems, nonetheless ignores consideration of the individuals who were on the decks, their purposes for travel, and their destinations. Yet these “multitudes” can tell us even more about American society from their own “varied observations.” 52 Prophesying Daughters Lee notes that the trip was “the most uncomfortable passage I have ever experienced, although the boat was commodious, yet they treated the people of color very indifferently indeed, as regards to their accommodations ” (Experience, 72). Although, as Mary Schriber indicates, “all travelers tolerated inconveniences and many of them withstood considerable discomfort,” Foote’s “most uncomfortable” experience was exacerbated by the inferior amenities to which she was limited because of her race.2 Schriber notes how traveling in America and abroad created extreme difficulties for all travelers. While accounts of many nineteenth-century white middle-class travelers do indicate that they did indeed experience seasickness, fatigue, and other discomforts, I would argue that these conditions were far worse for black travelers, who shared space with mail and other cargo and who had to ride on the decks of steamships, enduring rain and other extreme weather conditions. We see further evidence of these substandard travel conditions in Julia Foote’s description of one of her steamboat rides, an experience likewise different from Hawthorne’s. She describes how she caught a severe cold from the damp air on the deck of a steamboat because, as she states, “prejudice [was] not permitting one of my color to enter the cabin, except in the capacity of a servant” (Brand, 96). In detailing her travel account , Foote calls into question the differing racial ideologies that led to the actual cultural and social isolation and exclusion that black travelers encountered. Foote was correct that the only way they were granted access to the grand cabin of Hawthorne’s sketch was in the socially acceptable role of a servant. Why then, considering such obvious hardships and severe maltreatment , did Lee, Foote, and other black religious women continue to travel as far west as Kansas, as far north as Canada, and as far south as Louisiana? Why did these particular black religious women insist on enduring the bad conditions on the decks of boats and in the mail section of stagecoaches or trains, sometimes even traveling by foot? Why did they feel it necessary to chronicle their travel experiences in their narratives? What factors influenced why and how they chose to write about their travel? At the core of the answer to these questions is a notion I am calling the prophetic journey. 2. Mary Suzanne Schriber, ed., Writing Home: American Women Abroad, 1830– 1920, 18. Prophetic Journeying 53 Thousands...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826262998
Related ISBN
9780826214676
MARC Record
OCLC
1017609628
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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