At a time when freedom was measured solely in land ownership, property shares, and occupation, Equiano’s statement about a free man not being a free man at all, resonated with me throughout the reading. While Equiano provided testimony of a “life with mercy,” one where he had been granted freedom from his master, his status as a property holder, particularly in the South would be the true definition of his value and standing in society.

In thinking about this, I questioned what freedom looked like for a colored person at this time (and even lower class white men), and came across what “freedom” looked like in terms of legal documents. The picture below is documentation of freedom of former slave Harriet of Virginia. While the quality of the scan makes the handwritten portion hard to decipher, we can gather very little of this person’s rights as a freeman. Instead, the focus of the document appears to be a description of the person’s physical appearance as if it was record for future criminal persecution. When compared to a runaway slave posting, the content remains very similar, focused on details quite clearly defined in the documentation of freedom Harriet was granted.

These observations paired with the Equiano’s narrative of slavery and freedom left me with the notion that perhaps “freedom” was a more damning sentence than slavery. In a society where wealth was measured by property, newly freed men with very little, seldom with land, were often worse off. With social inequality and economic opportunity at a low point for American society, it is hard to see the difference between enslavement and freedom. And in no way rectifying the institute of slavery, were more benefits granted to the enslaved man than the freed man? Was being free worth it in a society that existed with a social hierarchy despite its founding being one of democracy?

                 

Sources:

http://www.balchfriends.org/Slaves/images/1822-09-10AdamRunawaySlaveOfMaryMason.jpg

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/odyssey/archive/02/0202001r.jpg

Whether walking outside or up and down the aisles of the grocery store it is hard not to notice fall’s arrival. With the leaves beginning to change, church pumpkin sales starting up, days becoming shorter, nights becoming cooler, and of course the arrival of fall seasonal beers to all of the supermarkets, the smell of fall is certainly in the air. The change in seasons might have just brought out the inner drunk in me, but it has really got me thinking a lot about what goes into the creation of all the unique seasonal brews and how they have been catered to a societies change in tastes as the calendar year progress’s.  So after doing a little research I came across this calendar showing the different seasons of beer, which lists all of the varieties of beer made by each brewery and the date that you can expect to see that specific beer hit the supermarkets. Additionally the writer discusses the different techniques or methods used in making the beers of a particular season.

The interesting thing I noticed about this page is the range of different flavors that are available throughout the year. The technology involved in brewing has become so advanced that brewers are able to manipulate the flavors is just about any way they could imagine in order to produce a distinct nostalgic seasonal flavor. With everyone having their own opinions on tastes that gives the brewers a lot of room for creativity to appeal to their large audience.  This article points out that seasonal beers will often make their ways onto the shelves well before their designated release season, and this is often due to competition and limited space in supermarkets and it is also done in order to gain first mover advantages over competitors. It is amazing that a beverage can have the ability to resemble a season so accurately and in such a unique way.

Sources:

http://time.com/beer-guide/

 

In the excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano himself provides a recount of the horrors he experienced as a slave in the New World, while providing an Enlightened view of the business of slave trading from a first-hand view.  Historians have stated that Equiano was kidnapped from his native homeland around 1756, having been a teenager at the time of abduction.  With the mid-1850s being potentially the peak of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Equiano was forced to undertake perhaps the most miserable of living conditions during the Middle Passage.  Not having seen slave ships or an industry such as slave trading before, Equiano faints at the sight of “a multitude of black people… chained together” with defeated looks upon their faces, and at one point has to ask whether or not they are all going to be killed.  He documents the horrors of men being beaten to death, or plunging into the ocean as an escape from the brutality of slavery.

Equiano writes further of his journey through the New World, first through the West Indies, then Canada, and finally Philadelphia, where he works as a deckhand for Robert King, a “live cargo” transporter from the West Indies to the colonies, all the while saving coin so that he can one day pay off his master to become a freed black.  With his previous owners, Equiano states of his longing to be literate, and to raise enough money to free himself and get a good education, and later start a family.  However, following his move to Philadelphia, Equiano realizes that in many conditions, a black man in the Colonies would be better off as a slave to a kind master rather than freed, and the later often “live in constant alarm for their liberty,” and are “universally insulted and plundered.”  Along this journey, he notices the horrors and disadvantages that even freed blacks dealt with every day in Philadelphia.  These statements alone characterize the inequality in the colonies, in that opportunities for true liberty for blacks are impossible, and in many cases, blacks would be more likely to be broke or starved if they were freed rather than still in slavery.  He notes that with his master, he (usually) has food, and even makes a small profit with a side venture he operates while traveling to and from the West Indies.  This excerpt as a whole describes the gruesome fate of a black person living in the Colonies, both free and enslaved, and at the end of the reading, provides no doubt why he chooses to move back to the Old World immediately following his freedom.

While researching accounts of the Middle Passage and finding endless results about Olaudah Equiano’s account of his journey, I was able to stumble upon a slightly different point of view. Equiano being a captive gave somewhat limited insight into the happenings of on board the ship during his journey. The article I found contains a descriptive account of such a ship by Alexander Falconbridge, a man was once a slave ship surgeon.

On Falconbridge’s ship, he describes the brutal account with far more detail about the conditions the slaves had to endure and why. Regarding food, Falconbridge mentions how captives who refused to eat would perhaps be burned on the lips with fiery coals on a shovel to be forced to nourish themselves. The slaves would also be given half a pint of water with every meal at maximum.

In parallel to Equiano’s extreme fear of nature’s element of water, slaves aboard Falconbridge’s ship were said to have reacted violently to sea-sickness compared to Europeans, with death as a common outcome. Exhaustive heat, foul smells and a lack of fresh air added to the intolerable conditions. “It was not in the power of human imagination to picture to itself a situation more dreadful or more disgusting,” he would say about the the conditions below the deck. Blood and mucus flowing along the ground and excessive heat that resulted when the portholes had to be shut while it rained all added to the horrors of the situation. Conditions were so bad that Falconbridge himself fell ill from the trips he made down in attempts to revive the those who had fainted, rarely to be restored.

Falconbridge’s account is directly correlated to Equiano’s. The conditions he describes are found to be just as horrific as Equiano’s. Although they were more than likely two distinct ships, the experiences of many slaves who endured the Middle Passage seems to have been eerily similar.

“The African Slave Trade”, Thomas Fowell Buxton. p. 124-127

 

In the reading it was intriguing to notice how Equiano used food to bookmark or note significant events that happen to him throughout his capture.  He remembers with vivid detail at age 11 the first time he tastes sugar cane and cocoa nuts. He provides visual descriptions and strong opinions of these foods and then suddenly after remarks that he is sold for exactly 172 pieces of sugar canes. This discrepancy of food as both a comforting and frightening symbol for his capture was a compelling shock to me the first time I read it. He continues to describe or insert food as a waypoint for his later experiences, like the first time he tastes wine, an unfamiliar and potent fare of the captors. I reason that his attachment to these various foods is because of his young age. He is still a child under his family’s protection and thus enjoys the familial comforts of affection, play, and nourishment. Having the first and second of these taken from him rather savagely, the only thing he can focus on with some constancy is the food he is given by his captors.

However, as we move through months and years of Equiano’s life we see a gradual shift in this focus. He learns to read and write, and to adopt the Christian religion as his own. He learns that his trade skills are of greater, long-term value to him than the uncertain promises of protection from untrustworthy masters. And so the new symbols of each passage in his life are represented by the physical objects of his work: books, the bible, money from selling fruit and from “trifling perquisites and small ventures” (p 705).

I wondered if this was a permanent shift in his narrative, but then I remembered the excerpt from the letter he had written years later to his English hosts before the beginning of his narrative . He describes, with warm nostalgia of the “luxuriant pineapples” and “well-flavored virgin palm-wine” (p 688). Even after all the academic and trade knowledge he accrued over the years, he still uses food as a way to remember his homeland.

After reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and writing a blog on the reading, it interest me that he ate well and was on a good diet and I wanted to know if it would really have an effect on a person’s intelligence. I wanted to show my research to the class. In the reading they explained how Benjamin Franklin didn’t eat much and would rather study and they said when he did eat he wouldn’t eat a lot of food.

Starting with children, researchers examined almost 4,000 children in southwest England from birth through the age of eight. They got all of their parents to fill out detailed questionnaires about their children’s diets at the ages of 3, 4, 7, and 8 ½. They told them that any food that was a ready to eat food that was high in fat and sugar were considered a processed food. The researchers found out that the kids that ate a high level of processed food at the age of three had a lower IQ score by the age of 8 ½. The study also showed that kids that ate a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables had an associated higher IQ score at the age of 8 1/2. The way the child ate between the ages of 4 and 7 didn’t have an effect on the IQ score.

I knew that the food that a kid ate had an effect on how smart a child is but I didn’t think that the foods you ate that early in your childhood would have an effect on your IQ that early in your life I thought that it could show up later in your child’s life. It didn’t come to a shock to me that the diet would have an effect on your IQ because when you breastfeed your child statistics show that they become smarter. So, Benjamin Franklin diet did have an effect on how intellectual he became. Did you think that the research would come out the way it did?

In this excerpt from “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” he shares his experience of being abducted from his village in Africa and taking the long journey to the New World. One element I found interesting was the change in the significance and meaning of food for Equiano as he made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

Before embarking on the ship, he passed through a variety of family situations. Some of them served him quality food, almost treating him as an equal at their dinner table, while others didn’t even bother to give him their leftover scraps. And once boarding the ship, his perception of food changes quickly and often. An examination of this is as follows.

His initial feeling as he takes in the view of the ship is fear. He believes he is meant to be eaten by the strange new people he witnesses. In his mind, he is now the food. This comes up again when he cannot discern how the boat is moving across the water and decides it must be magic. This confirms his belief that he is to be consumed by the shipmates. How could this alter his perception of food now that he fears he is in danger of becoming the food that the ship workers require?

The shift of what Equiano thinks of his own food is also worthy of note. The conditions of the quarters for the slaves on the ship are indescribably horrible. This causes him to not even have the stomach to eat, and actually refuses food offered to him knowing he would die. He is accepting death instead of food and nourishment. The absence of food has become a symbol for peace and freedom from the hell he is living in. But then, the slaves are whipped and flogged for not accepting the food offered to them. Now, not eating food equals pain and torment. This back and forth occurs over the course the voyage. It is interesting to observe the varying implications that food had in Equiano’s life during this time period. I wonder how these actions affected his perception of food during the remainder of his life. Did these terrible memories aboard the ship prevent a true enjoyment of food for the years following? Or was he able to overcome his awful treatment and negative connotations associated with eating?

Equiano tells the story in the excerpts of how he went from his homeland to eventually settling in as free man in England. This narrative made me realized that back then not everything is always black and white and even in times of adversity, there are still moments of hope. In the beginning, Equiano wrote about his relatively happy childhood until he and his sister were kidnapped and was brought into slavery. Some time later, they were briefly reunited only to be separated forever. While Equiano must surely thought about the whereabouts of his sister every single day, that however did not stop him from enjoying the little things in life. He noted how delicious the cocoa nuts were even when he was forced into slavery. This emphasized how powerful of a force food really is. Food is a temporary elixir, but most importantly food is essential.

Food is so essential that white men on the slave ships thought Equiano would no doubt eat the food that they gave to him. When Equiano refused, he suffered the consequences of his noncompliance showing that sometimes pride takes over our natural urge to consume calories. Again, this illustrated that Equiano, like all humans, was not programmed to make binary decisions. In Equiano’s time, societies were embedded with ideas of white supremacy. However, most of Equiano’s slave masters proved otherwise. In most accounts, Equiano noted how relatively well treated he was by some white men so much so that he desired to assimilate into their culture, learn their mannerisms, and even convert to their religion. Equiano’s narrative certainly pointed out a different side to the story of slavery, and we learned that humans are indeed capable of critical thinking and doing the right thing even if society tells them otherwise.

While reading the Equiano excepts, I kept track of what and where he ate or was served. There seemed to be a correlation between the things certain foods are traditionally associated with and the environment or situation Equiano was in. He seems to, on multiple occasions, use food as a tool to really drive home what he was feeling or experiencing in some of the places he visited.

Near the start of the except, Equiano describes his relatively happy existence at one place he was enslaved where he tasted cocoa nuts and sugar cane. These types of foods, in their processed form, are usually associated with comfort, excess, wealth, or aristocracy. During this time he lived comfortably – having slaves attending to him and maintaining a very positive relation with his owners. Equiano ostensibly mentions tasting the cocoa and sugar to accentuate the description of the luxury he experiences. Later, when forced aboard the slave ship, he is offered liquor in a wine glass to calm him down. Wine glasses typically accompany relatively quiet and calm environments like a fancy dinner or a vineyard. Here he is emphasizing the fact that he is absolutely terrified and how out-of-place the wine glass is, much like himself in his own situation. Even later, while still aboard the slave ship, the white men capture and eat their fill of fish and throw the rest overboard, intentionally keeping the remainder from the slaves. Catching fish is sometimes ‘on-or-off’; either you get lucky with an abundant catch or come up with nothing at all, much akin to how the white men eat their fill while the slaves are left with nothing. This could be an allusion to how unlucky he has been to end up in this situation, and also how deprived of food he is. It is difficult to tell if Equiano describes foods that metaphorically relate to situations in his narrative intentionally, but the correlation seems uncanny either way.

As I am sitting 30,000 feet in the air on the way to Seattle, I couldn’t help but ponder how travel effects a person. As being a student at Georgia Tech I was always encouraged to travel in some sense, whether it was study abroad, internships, or spontaneous road trips. As I find traveling an extremely enjoyable experience, I wonder how it actually effects all aspects of someone’s life – ability to succeed, confidence, morale, and overall attitude and acceptance. When reading Equiano’s recount of his experiences as a slave and gaining his freedom, it was hard to find many positive situations that he found himself in. It was an excruciating honest and straightforward read, where he even intentionally excluded the brutality of some events that he witnessed. Olaudah did however get exposed to more culture and situations than the majority of those that live on this earth, and I think that has everything to do with his ability to win his freedom.

In his recount, he is stolen from his home as a young boy where he began life as a slave, simply trying to make it through the day and survive. However as the years passed, he slowly began to desire more than just accepting the brutal punishments of his masters and the monotonous work he was given. This eventually led to his internal ambition to work extremely hard on a ship to earn his own freedom from his master, even though Robert King treated him with more respect than his previous masters. But what sparked this inner desire to dream of freedom, in what seemed an exceedingly impossible task to gain enough capital and convince his owner to set him free? And why didn’t every slave of his time push for this same goal? I would argue that Equaino’s vast and wide experiences showed him the beauty of freedom and the possibilities in life when one has free will.

Every time he performed a different job, moved to an unfamiliar home, and was placed under a new master, he had to overcome adversity, but he also learned more about his innate ability to adapt and survive. I argue that because he was constantly encountering new experiences, he had the will power to earn his freedom, simply because he believed that he could. Equiano went through some of the most brutal events that anyone has endured. But because he was forced to endure and experience a variety of trials he found the courage and confidence to aspire for more.