African American History
Based on your reading of this chapter, do you believe racial prejudice among British settlers in the Chesapeake led them to enslave Africans? Or did the unfreeze condition of the first Africans to arrive testament’s lead to racial prejudice among settlers? The British settlers in the Chesapeake intentionally didn’t mean to have slavery but it happened because of laws that deprived blacks of basic rights. When black people came to Virginia they were given the same contract given to white peoples servants.
The contract basically stated that Africans had to work for their master up until their amount of worked came up to the price they were sold for. Once they were done they were set free. 2. Why did vestiges of African culture survive in British North America? Did these vestiges help or hinder North Americans in dealing with enslavement? Africans did not make the choice to leave their country they were definitely taken away from it, I like how even though they were not in their surroundings the still held on to their culture and traditions.
These vestiges eloped African Americans deal with slavery because it allowed them to have something of their own and not only living under their masters power. 3. Compare and contrast eighteenth century slavery as it existed in the Chesapeake, in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia, and in the northern colonies? The northern region was different in a lot of ways in slavery. It didn’t have a staple crop, and it had a large number of white laborers and they had a large economy not based only on slaves.
And in the north white people did not believe the black population was such a threat . Unlike the south slaves holding on to their heritage was very slim due to “>Virginia to New York City concur with Wallach’s assessment of Hack Finn demands the attention of the academic community. To condemn concerns about the novel as the misguided ranting of “know nothings and noise makers” (11) is no longer valid or profitable; nor can the invocation of Husk’s immunity under the protectorate of “classic” suffice. Such academic platitudes no longer intimidate, nor can they satisfy, parents who have walked the halls of the university and have shed their awe of academe.
If the academic establishment remains unmoved by black readers’ dismay, he news that Hack Finn ranks ninth on the list of thirty books most frequently challenged (12) should serve as testimony that the book’s “racial problem” is one of more consequence than the ancillary position to which scholars have relegated it. (13) Certainly, given Hack Finishing position in the canon of American literature, its failure to take on mythic proportions for, or even to be a pleasant read for, a segment of secondary school students merits academic scrutiny.
The debate surrounding the racial implications of Hack Finn and its appropriateness for the secondary school classroom gives rise to myriad considerations. The actual matter and intent of the text are a source of contention. The presence of the word “Niger,” the treatment of Jim and blacks in general, the somewhat difficult satiric mode, and the ambiguity of theme give pause to even the most flexible reader. Moreover, as numerous critics have pointed out, neither Junior high nor high school students are necessarily flexible or subtle readers.
The very profundity of the text renders the process of teaching it problematic and places special emphasis on teacher ability and attitude. Student cognitive and social maturity also takes on apical significance in the face of such a complicated and subtle text. The nature of the complexities of Hack Finn places the dynamics of the struggle for its inclusion in or exclusion from public school curricula in two arenas. On the one hand, the conflict manifests itself as a contest between lay readers and scalded scholarly experts, particularly as it concerns the text.
Public school administrators and teachers, on the other hand, field criticisms that have to do with the context into which the novel is introduced. In neither case, however, do the opponents appear to ear each other. Too often, concerned parents are dismissed by academia as “neurotics” (14) who have fallen prey to personal racial insecurities or have failed to grasp Twain’s underlying truth. In their turn, censors regard academics as inhabitants of ivory towers who pontificate on the virtue of Hack Finn without recognizing its potential for harm.
School officials and parents clash over the school’s right to intellectual freedom and the parents’ right to protect their children from Critics vilify Twain most often and most vehemently for his aggressive use of the pejorative term “Niger. Detractors, refusing to accept the good intentions of a text that places the insulting epithet so often in the mouths of characters, black and white, argue that no amount of intended irony or satire can erase the humiliation experienced by black children.
Reading Hack Finn aloud adds deliberate insult to insensitive injury, complain some. In a letter to the New York Times, Allan B. Ballard recalls his reaction to having Hack Finn read aloud “in a predominantly white Junior high school in Philadelphia some 30 years ago. ” I can still recall the anger I felt as my white classmates read aloud the word “Niger. In fact, as I write this letter I am getting angry all over again. I wanted to sink into my seat. Some of the whites snickered, others giggled.
I can recall nothing of the literary merits of this work that you term “the greatest of all American novels. ” I only recall the sense of relief I felt when I would flip ahead a few pages and see that the word “Niger” would not be read that hour. (15) Moreover, the presentation of the novel as an “American classic” serves as an official endorsement of a term uttered by the most prejudiced racial bigots to an age group eager to experiment with any language of hock value.
One reporter has likened the teaching of the novel to sight-read kids to “pulling the pin of a hand grenade and tossing it into the all too common American classroom. ” (16) Some who have followed Hack Fin’s racial problems express dismay that some blacks misunderstand the ironic function Twain assigned “Niger” or that other blacks, inspire of their comprehension of the irony, will allow themselves and their progeny to be defeated by a mere pejorative.
Leslie Fiddler would have parents “prize Twain’s dangerous and equivocal novel not in spite of its use of that wicked epithet, UT for the way in which it manages to ironies it; enabling us functionality denying our horror or our guilt laugh therapeutically at the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery. ” (17) If Wallace has taken it upon himself to speak for the opponents of Hack Finn, Nat Henceforth, libertarian Journalist for the Village Voice, has taken equal duty as spokesperson for the novel’s champions.
Henceforth believes that confronting, Hack will give students “the capacity to see past words like ‘Niger’ .. Into what the writer is actually saying. ” He wonders, “What’s going to happen to a kid when he gets into the oral if he’s going to let a word paralyze him so he can’t think? ” (18) Citing an incident in Harrington, Pennsylvania, where a black eighth grader was allegedly verbally and physically harassed by white students after reading Hack Finn in class, Henceforth declares the situation ripe for the educational plucking by any “reasonably awake teacher. He enthuses: What a way to get Hack and Jim, on the one hand, and all those white racists they meet. , on the other hand, off the pages of the book and into that very classroom. Talk about a book coming alive! Look at that Hack Finn. Reared in racism, like all the white ids in his town. And then, on the river, on the raft with Jim, shucking off that blind ignorance because this runaway slave is the most honest, perceptive, broadminded Harrington, Pennsylvania, in 1982! 19) Henceforth laments the fact that teachers missed such a teachable moment and mockingly reports the compromise agreed upon parents and school officials, declaring it a “victory for niceness. ” Justine Kaplan flatly denies that “anyone, of any color, who had actually reducibility Finn, instead of merely reading or hearing about it, and who had allowed himself or herself even the arrest minimum of intelligent response to its underlying spirit and intention, could accuse it of being ‘racist’ because some of its characters use offensive racial epithets. 20) Henceforth mocking tone and reductive language Kaplan disdainful and condescending attitude, and Fiddler’s erroneous supposition that “Niger” can be objectified so as to allow a black person “to laugh therapeutically” at slavery illustrate the incapacity of non-blacks to comprehend the enormous emotional freight attached to the headword “Niger” for each black person. Niger is “fighting” words and everyone in this country, black and white, knows it. 21) In his autobiography, Longs Hughes offers a cogent explanation of the signification of “Niger” to blacks: The word Niger to colored people of high and low degree is like a red rag to a bull. Used rightly or wrongly, ironically or seriously, of necessity for the sake of realism, or impishly for the sake of comedy, it doesn’t matter. Negroes do not like it in any book or play whatsoever, be the book or play ever so sympathetic in its treatment of the basic problems of the race.
Even though the book or play is written by a Negro, they still do not like it. The word Niger, you see, sums up for us who are colored all the titer years of insult and struggle in America. (22) Unblocks know implicitly that to utter “Niger” in the presence of a Negro is to throw down a gauntlet that will be taken up with a vengeance. To dismiss the word’s recurrence in the work as an accurate rendition of interconnectivity American linguistic conventions denies what every black person knows: far more than a synonym for slave, “Niger” signifies a concept.
It conjures centuries of specifically black degradation and humiliation during which the family was disintegrated, education was denied, manhood was trapped within a forced repeal pauperism, and womanhood was destroyed by concubine. If one grants that Twain substituted “Niger” for “slave,” the implications of the word do not improve; “Niger” denotes the black man as a commodity, as chattel. (23) In addition to serving as a reminder of the “peculiar institution” “Niger” encapsulates the decades of oppression that followed emancipation. “It means not only racist terror and lynch mobs but that victims ‘deserve it. ” (24) Outside Central High in Little Rock in 1954 it was emblazoned across placards; and across the South throughout the sass and into the sass it was screamed by angry mobs. Currently, t is the chief taunt of the UK Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. In short, “Niger” has the odious distinction of signifying all “the shame, the frustration, the rage, the fear” that has been so much a part of the history of race relations in the United States, and blacks still consider it ‘”dirtier” than any of the maceration foreseeable Angelinos monosyllabic. (25) So to impute blacks’ abhorrence of refusal to acknowledge that the connotations of “that word” generate a cultural discomfort that blacks share with no other racial group. To counteract the Bolivian response that “Niger” triggers for many black readers, mom scholars have striven to reveal the positive function the word serves in the novel by exposing the discrepancy between the dehumidifying effect of the word and the real humanity Of Jim. 26) Fiddler cites the passage in which Hack lies to Aunt Sally about a steamboat explosion that hurt no one but “killed a Niger,” and Aunt Sally callously responds, “Well, it’s lucky, because sometimes people do get hurt” (chap. 32); he notes that the passage brims with humor at the expense of Aunt Sally and the convention to which she conforms. But Fiddler is also of the opinion hat Hack does not get the Joked not recognize the humor of the fact that he and Aunt Sally by “dehumidifying the Negro diminish their own humanity. 27) It seems to Husk’s foes (and to me) that if Hack does not get the Joke, then there is no Joke, and he becomes as culpable as Aunt Sally. However, Fiddler’s focus on this dialogue is to the point, because racial objectors isolate it as one of the most visible and detrimental slurs of the novel. The highlighting of this passage summons contrasting perspectives on it. Kaplan argues that “one has to be deliberately dense to miss the point Mark Twain is making here ND to construe such passages as evidences of his ‘racism. (28) Dehydrogenating the obvious inference from the dialogue, arrive at a conclusion different from Kaplan, and their response cannot simply be disregarded as that of the unsophisticated reader. In order to believe in Twain’s satirical intention, one has to believe in Husk’s good faith toward Jim. That is to say, one has to believe that, rather than reflecting his own adherence to such conventions, Hack simply weaves a tale that marks him as a “rightsizing” youngster.
The faith in Hack that Twain’s defenders display grows out of the manner in which he acquits himself at his celebrated “crisis of conscience,” less than tenderfoot hours prior to his encounter with Aunt Sally. There is no denying the rightness of Husk’s decision to risk his soul for Jim. But there is no tangible reason to assume that the regard Hack acquires for Jim during his odyssey down the river is generalized to encompass all blacks. Further, Husk’s choice to “go to hell” has little to do with any respect he has gained for Jim as a human being with an inalienable right to be owned by no one.
Rather, his personal affection for the slave governs his overthrow f societal mores. It must be remembered that Hack does not adjudge slavery to be wrong; he selectively disregards a system that he ultimately believes is right. So when he discourses with Aunt Sally, he is expressing views he still holds. His emancipators attitudes extend no further than his love for Jim. It seems valid to argue that were he given the option of freeing other slaves, Hack would not necessarily choose manumission.
Twain’s apparent “perpetuation of racial stereotypes” through his portrayal of Jim and other blacks in Hack Finn bears relation to his use of “Niger” and has fostered eviction of blacks, particularly Jim, represents the tendency of the dominant white culture to saddle blacks with traits that deny their humanity and mark them as inferior. Critics disparage scenes that depict blacks as childish, inherently less intelligent than whites, superstitious beyond reason and common sense, and grossly ignorant of standard English.
Further, they charge that in order to entertain his white audience, Twain relied upon the stock conventions of “black minstrelsy,” which “drew upon European traditions of using the mask of blackness to mock individuals or social forces. (29) Given the seemingly negative stereotypical portraits of blacks, parents concerned that children, black and white, be exposed to positive models of blacks are convinced that Hack Finn is inappropriate for secondary classrooms.
Critics express their greatest displeasure with Twain’s presentation of Jim, the runaway slave viewed by most as second only to Hack in importance to the novel’s thematic structure. Although he is the catalyst that spurs Hack along his odyssey of conscience, Jim commences the novel (and to some degree remains) as the stereotypical, superstitious “dark” that Twain’s white audience would have expected ND in which they would have delighted. In his essay “Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke,” Ralph Ellison examines the play Twain gives the minstrel figure.
Though Twain does strike Jim in the mold of the minstrel tradition, Ellison believes that we observe “Jims dignity and human capacity” emerge from “behind this stereotype mask. ” Yet by virtue of his minstrel mask, Jims role as an adult is undercut, and he often appears more childlike than Hack. Though Ellison writes that “it is not at all odd that this bald-faced figure of white fan [the minstrel dark] is for Negroes a symbol of everything they rejected in he white man’s thinking about race, in themselves and in their own group,” his final analysis seems to be that Jims humanity transcends the limits of the minstrel tradition. 30) Taking a more critical stance than Ellison, Frederick Woodard and Downgrade McCann, in “Huckleberry Finn and the Traditions of Blackjack Minstrelsy,” examine specific incidents throughout the novel in the light of the minstrel tradition. Denying that Jim is used to poke fun at whites, as some scholars suggest, Woodard and McCann cite the appeal that the “ridiculous or paternalistic portrayals of Black Americans” held for “the white threatening audience,” Twain’s own delight in minstrel shows, and his “willingness to shape his message to his audience. (31) Noting that the stereotypical blackjack portrayals were thought to be realistic by Twain and many of his white contemporaries, the pair highlight various incidents in Hack Finn that they think illustrate their contention that Jim plays the minstrel role to Husk’s straight man. For instance, Husk’s and Jims debate about French (chap. 14) bears a striking resemblance to the minstrelsy’s dialogue that Twain deemed happy and accurate imitation[s] of thesaurus and familiar negro quarrel. (32) Though Jims logic is superior to Husk’s, argue Woodard and McCann, the scene plays like a minstrelsy’s act because “Jim has the information’s of a child. ” (33) character reveals itself, offer readings of Jim that depart sharply from the Woodard and McCann assessment. Some view Twain’s depiction of Jim early in the novel as the necessary backdrop against which Husk’s gradual awareness of Jims humanity is revealed. These early renditions of Jim serve more to lay bare Husk’s initial attitudes award race and racial relations than they do to characterize Jim, positively or negatively.
As the two fugitives ride down the Mississippi deeper and deeper into slave territory, the power of Jims personality erodes the prejudices Husk’s culture (educational, political, social, and legal) has instilled. Such readings of passages that appear to emphasize Jims superstitions, gullibility, or foolishness allow Twain to escape the charge of racism and be seen as championing blacks by exposing the falseness of stereotypes.
This view of Twain’s motivation is evident in letters written o the New York Times in protest of the New York City Board of Education’s decision to ban the book in 1957: Of all the characters in Mark Twain’s works there probably wasn’t any of whom he was fonder than the one that went down the river with Hack Finn. It is true that this character is introduced as “Miss Watson big Niger, named Jim. ” That was the Missouri vernacular of the day. But from there on to the end of the story Miss Watson Jim is a warm human being, lovable and admirable. (34) Now, Huckleberry Finn… s a great document in the progress of human tolerance and understanding. Hack begins by regarding Jim, the fugitive slave, very much as the Juvenile delinquents of Little Rock regard the Negro today. Gradually, however, he discovers that Jim, despite the efforts of society to brutalize him, is a noble human being who deserves his protection, friendship, and respect. This theme of growing love is made clear throughout the book. (35) In another vein, some defenders of Twain’s racial sensitivities assign Jims initial portrayal a more significant role than mere backdrop.
The rubric of “performed ideology” frames Steven Mailbox’s interpretation of Jim as he appears in the early philosophical debates” with Hack. (36) Mailbox explains how a “literary text can take up the ideological rhetoric of its historical moment… And place it on a fictional stage. ” As “ideological drama,” the literary destructible Finn in this sanctities readers to become spectators and actors at a rhetorical performance. In fact, the success of the ideological drama depends upon the reader’s participation: “The humor and often the ideological point of the novel’s many staged arguments… Ely upon the reader’s ability to recognize patterns of false argumentation. ” Within the framework of heterocyclic performances, then, Jims minstrel scenes serve “as ideological critique[s] of white supremacy. ” In each case, however, the dominance of Jims humanity over the racial discourse of white supremacy hinges upon the reader’s recognition of the discrepancy between the two ideologies. (37) The interpretive Job that Mailbox does on the “French question” in chapter 14 exonerates the passage of any racial negativity.
Husk’s disdainful comment that “you a minstrel dialogue unless readers recognize the superior rhetorician: “Of course, readers reject the racist slur as a rationalization. They know Hack gives up because e has lost the argument: it is precisely because Jim has learned to argue by imitating Hack that he reduces his teacher to silence. Far from demonstrating Jims inferior knowledge, the debate dramatists his argumentative superiority, and in doing so makes a serious ideological point through a rhetoric of humor. (38) The vigorous critical acumen with which Mailbox approaches the role played by Jim is illustrative of the interpretative tacks taken by academics. Most view Twain’s depiction of Jim as an ironic attempt to transcend the very prejudices that dissidents accuse him of perpetuating. Though there has been copious criticism of the Jim who shuffles his way across the pages of Huckleberry Fin’s opening chapters, the Jim who darkens the closing chapters of the novel elicits even more (and more universally aggregation) disapprobation.
Most see the closing sequence, which begins at Husk’s encounter with Aunt Sally, as a reversal of any moral intention that the preceding chapters imply. The significance that Twain’s audience has attached to the Journey down the reverie’s pursuit of freedom and Husk’s gradual recognition of the slave’s humanness’s rendered meaningless by the entrance of Tom Sawyer and his associations to “free” Jim. The particular offensiveness to blacks of the closing sequence officeholders Finn results in part from expectations that Twain has built up during the raft ride down the river.
As the two runaways drift down the Mississippi, Hack (along with the reader) watches Jim emerge as a man whose sense of dignity and selflessness dwarf the minstrel mask. No one can deny the manly indignation evinced by Jim when Hack attempts to convince him that he has only dreamed their separation during the night of the heavy fog. Hack himself is so struck by Jims passion that he humbles himself to a Niger” and “warrant ever sorry for it afterwards” (chap. 15). From this point, the multidimensionality of Jims personality erodes Husk’s socialized attitudes about blacks.
During the night, thinking that Hack is asleep, Jim vents the adult frustrations he does not expect Hack to understand or alleviate; he laments having to abandon his wife and two children: “Pop’ little Elizabeth! Pop’ little Johnny! It’s might hard; I spec’ I anti ever Gwynne to see you no MO’, no MO”‘ (chap. 2. 3). Berating himself for having struck his forayer old daughter, Elizabeth, in punishment for hat he thought was blatant disobedience, Jim tells Hack of his remorse after discovering that the toddler had gone deaf without his knowledge.
In Just such an attempt to render the last ten chapters less irksome, James M. Cox attacks the very thing that has led readers to deplore that last unfortunate is, the moral sentiment against which we measure Tom’s actions. Our moral sentiment, explains Cox, (41) leads us to misconstrue Twain’s intent and to declare the ending a failure. Twain does not, as most believe, lose courage and fail to carry through with his indictment of the racial attitudes of the Old South. On the contrary, the closing sequence returns the novel and Hack to Twain’s true central meaning.