Holt And Linden Readings

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The Holt and Linden readings were undeniably related to the experiences of African Americans during the 19th Century - they are a series of accounts, forged by their authors’ personal experiences. As primary sources, they are definitely invaluable in learning about their daily lives. These sources are also useful beyond that sense; in comparing both readings, it is possible to ascertain the varying contemporary perspectives with regards to the African American experience. Firstly, I will argue that both sources agree on the existence of abuse of the African American population; they show that blacks suffered unequal legal and political rights vis-a-vis whites, even for freedmen. Secondly, I will show how the readings differ with regards to…show more content…
Taking primary sources on the actions of slaves against the wishes of their masters, the readings show an attitude of defiance amongst the slaves, particularly in light of abuse by their masters. This is best examplified in the source by the case of Margeret Garner, whom had tried to kill her children in order to prevent them from being reenslaved. That she was willing to do so rather than allow them to suffer as slaves provides a violent and visceral expression of her defiance against the institution of slavery. The readings also offers certain primary sources on marriage amongst slaves, showcasing their exercise of the legal rights of marriage (that were denied them); as well as their undying desire for love and community - a defiance of the attempts of slave-owners to dehumanise them, and a celebration of their innate humanity. For example, the Linden readings offer an account of how even though “Violet” was separated from her first husband by the actions of her masters, they were unable to force her to love or marry another - In effect, while she could not control her circumstances, she was able to retain her sense as an individual. In all of these examples, we can see that the will of the slave was not that of their masters; that they had motives, purposes and lives that can contradict those of their…show more content…
To say that blacks were passive or otherwise ineffectual in the face of abuses is to cast them as helpless victims of white society. This also puts forth an implication that their emancipation in 1877 had not come about via their efforts, and is something I vehemently disagree with. Instead, the narrative of black agency and defiance rings true to me; to quote historian Barbara J. Fields, “The slaves decided at the time of Lincoln’s election that their hour had come”. While they could not have challenged the institution of slavery directly, their individual efforts at defying their masters, freeing themselves through military enlistment, and in retaining their humanity through pursuing love and community shows that blacks were ultimately masters of their own destiny - a conclusion that I feel explains the importance of black participation for the abolishment of slavery. Furthermore, in adopting the perspective shown by the Linden readings (one of black passivity and reliance on white support), one runs the risk of adopting the moral viewpoint of their masters - that slaves were subhuman and lacked human agency, only being fit to be worked like chattel. That, in itself, is a strong moral reason for the persuasiveness of Holt’s narrative, where blacks were as capable and independent as whites, and that fits in with the contemporary

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