When times are tough, it’s always important and useful to focus on the positive. Considering President Lincoln wrote this proclamation after two devastating years of war between the Union and Confederate armies, I believe focusing on the positive is exactly what he is encouraging the people of the United States to do. President Lincoln acknowledges “magnitude and severity” of the war, but then notes that there are still blessings to count. Waging war requires a large amount of resources and manpower. The War is wasteful. Lives, time, land, and various other resources will be destroyed. Fortunately, peaceful industry has not come to a halt, exploration is still occurring, minerals and ore are still being mined, the population is still increasing even with the toll the war has taken. These are all things to observe and be thankful for. When he writes, “continuance of years with large increase of freedom,” I’m assuming he’s addressing the newly found freedom African Americans will have once the war is over. A large sacrifice is being made to make this new freedom possible. This is certainly worth thanksgiving.
Even as a Confederate auditor, if you were to sit back and objectively think about what President Lincoln is addressing in this proclamation, you would be able to find a reason to give thanks. You may not have an enslaved labor force that works for free once the war is over, but at least you’ll still have fields of crops. Well, unless your field happens to be in the path of Sherman’s March to the Sea. In that case, give thanks for waking up and being able to breathe.
Ultimately, I think Lincoln’s case for a day of thanks is still persuasive today. Despite the horrible tragedy in France, the racial tensions in the United States, and the fact that Donald Trump is leading in the GoP polls, we all still have endless reasons to give thanks. I would challenge anyone in the class or even anyone at Georgia Tech period to describe their current situation and I can guarantee I can find a reason for them to be thankful.
Whitman’s poem (or at least the excerpts from it) is an interesting poem because it focuses on the idea of “I” and “I” can mean Whitman himself or the reader. It’s very clear that throughout the except, Whitman focuses on himself and constantly brings attention to himself. The first line says “meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger” which literally means that the meal is equal to everyone and that hunger for meat (or food in general) is a very natural reaction. No matter who you are, you have a natural craving for food and will get hungry; thieves, women, slaves, everyone is equal. But he brings attention to himself by saying that he will be sure to invite everyone and not let anyone be left behind. He also says “All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, Else it were time lost listening to me.” Literally, he says that everything he does, someone else (the reader perhaps) will also do but differently otherwise, there was no point in listening to Whitman. In a way, it’s reminiscent of trying to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made; he’s talking about how important it is to listen to him and the advice he gives. Lastly, the most interesting line has to be “I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones” because it’s such an egotistical line; this one line highlights just how important Whitman finds himself and holds himself above everyone else. With all these lines, there’s always a focus on “I” and I think the food tries to make the reader be able to connect with the author/poem, but with the way the entire poem is written, it’s really hard to.
In the beginning of the excerpt from Song of Myself Walt Whitman says “This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger, It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous.” By this Whitman is saying that all people, whether good or evil, need food. He goes on later to say “The kept-women, sponger, thief, are hereby invited; The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited.” Here Whitman extends his idea that good and bad people need food to the idea that all people need food no matter gender or race. Whitman understands that food is necessary for all humans and that no matter who you are or what you have done. Whitman also says “There shall be no difference between them and the rest”, not only does Whitman understand that everyone requires food, but to him everyone is equal in their need for food. Whitman also asks the question how does he “extract strength from what he eats? Then he immediately asks the questions “what is man anyhow? What am I? what are you?” by this, maybe Whitman is trying to connect what we eat directly to who we are. In a deeper sense, how different nationalities consume different types of food and how that plays a vital role in what makes that nationality who they are.
Frederick Douglass spent much of the assigned chapters talking about his dynamic with old mistresses and new mistresses and the contrast between them. Mrs. Lucretia instructed young child Frederick to clean himself and make sure he is perfectly presentable to the future masters and mistresses he was to meet in Baltimore. He was taught to never look mistresses in the face and crouch in servility before them. Upon seeing his new mistress Mrs. Auld, Frederick saw kindness and heaven in her. His crouching disturbed Mrs. Auld rather than put her at ease. He looked her in the face and she did not punish him. His life as a “city slave” was closer to that of a free man than that of a “country slave”. The lives of the women across the street were entirely different. Frederick considered Mary and Henrietta to be the most abused people he had ever known. Mrs. Hamilton, their mistress, covered their entire shoulders and scalps with sores and lashes.
Intersectionality is an important and overlooked concept with regards to civil rights. In order for Frederick Douglass to advance the 15th amendment, he felt required to remove women from it to make the amendment more likely to pass. Black women were still denied much of what Frederick fought to give his people. Being oppressed as a black woman was different from being oppressed as a black man. Frederick was treated much better than his female counterparts in Baltimore
The preface of the chapters talked about how Frederick Douglass worked with the women’s rights movement throughout his life until the very day he died. Before the Frederick Douglass reading, I knew nothing of his feminist streak. All I really knew of him was that he ran away from slavery and spoke up about it with the Republicans. Never before had I heard he attended the women’s rights rallies. He died speaking at one. Reading the chapters in a feminist lense, I am able to see how he focuses on how women interact with their surroundings. He deeply personifies them while leaving his male owners more ambiguously personified. Through this subtle writing, Frederick is able to shift his focus towards women while not blatantly stating his suffrage opinions that he feared drowned out his work towards the 15th amendment. Frederick cleverly eases his readers to take on women’s perspectives so as to help ease the readers into slightly more feminist view points.
Fredrick Douglass is no doubt the most important African American leader in the 19th century. He rose from extreme poverty and slavery to become one of the country’s most respected intellectuals and human right’s activists. During this time as an enslaved worker, Fredrick Douglass began to learn to read and write from any source possible. His first teacher was his mistress, but later begins to continue his education by trading “breads.” I found this part of Douglass’ biography interesting as he exchanged food for an education. “The bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge. Douglass later admitted that he would restrain from naming these young and poor children because they would be embarrassed by others for teaching an African American. Even though he was considered “better well off” in the standards of living due to his availability of food, he was able to exploit the poverty of Caucasian children who were educated. As a slave, food was less important to him than education, because an education was his way to freedom.
The passage that struck out to me was on page 1194 when Douglass talks about the “mush” and how the children would come “like pigs” to devour the mush. He also mentions that “he who ate the fastest got the most” to show that the act of eating had been stripped from what we know today and was merely a race to eat as much as possible to survive. Eating for Douglass at that point in time was very different from what we consider eating now; we can take our time with eating our food and order for each person whereas he would have to fight his way to eat as much mush as he could otherwise he would starve to death.
It’s also an interesting passage because it seems like the slaver owners are almost “training” these children to react to this method of eating; putting food on the ground and calling them out reminds me of the Pavlov experiment of classical conditioning where the researchers were able to successfully train the dog to salivate after hearing the whistle since the whistle meant that food was coming (even if it actually wasn’t). I guess from an ethical perspective, I would be curious to know if these children realized what was going on or if they considered this normal because they were born into this situation and trained to react this way. It’s clear from this passage and how Douglass wrote this (using words like pigs and devour to describe the situation) that looking back, Douglass does realize how savage this act was but there’s no indication of what his actions were when it was happening to him. He also doesn’t talk much about how long this went on (from his early childhood until he left or just for a few years in his childhood) or any mentions of the slave parents and how they reacted to this.
After reading the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave the part that I found most intriguing was when Douglass talks about how he learned how to read. Douglass goes on to explain that he began to make friends with white boys that he would meet in the streets. In exchange for the boys teaching him to read he would give them bread that he had taken from his house. Douglass ends his story about how he learned to read by saying “This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.” (Douglass 1199) One thing that really stood out to me about his story was that he was willing to trade away food, the key to surviving, for knowledge. One would think that most slaves would hold on to all the food they could get seeing as they were normally underfed, but not Douglass, he was more concerned with learning to read than he was about eating. When Douglass says that the “bread of knowledge” was more valuable than actual bread shows how important education and knowledge was to him. I found it interesting that Douglass uses the phrase “bread of knowledge”, to me, he is implying that like bread is necessary for survival, to him, so is knowledge. This also shows that Douglass believed that knowledge was more important to survival than eating.
Throughout chapters 5 – 10 in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Douglass describes his hard life as a slave. Despite the slave’s situation of hunger and mistreatment, even the slave owner believed that “Not to give a slave enough, to eat is regarded as the most aggravated development of meanness even among the slaveholders” (Douglass 54). The slave holders did not want to seem like they were ruthless and cruel in the public light. However, this did not stop them from giving too little food to their slaves as there is no such thing as a benevolent slave owner. One of the ways Douglass describes the mistreatment of slaves by lack of food is through the use of a metaphor comparing slaves to animals.
One passage that stood out to me was when Douglass compares the hungry slave children to pigs. “Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This is called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and then set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush…none with spoons” (Douglass 36). Like animals, the food that the slaves eat is coarse and plain, nothing fancy or complicated. However, what really develops the metaphor of the children as pigs is the way that the food is served and the manner in which the children eat. Not only does Douglass use the word “trough” to describe the dish used to serve food to the children but also the children eat not like people but like animals, ravenously, without silverware and on the floor. The food was placed on the ground just as one would do to feed his or her pet. Notably, in a later chapter (chapter 8) Douglass explicitly states that slaves were of the same class as animals in the sentence, “Men and women…were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine” (Douglass 49).
After reading “In Sorrow’s Kitchen” by Jessica Harris, I began to think about Southern food today as something that constantly surrounds us in Georgia. In recent years, cities like Atlanta have seen trends in modern “Southern Cooking”, and these restaurants have sprung up with increasing popularity and praise. This reimagining of cooking that has been around for centuries has interesting implications when we consider the ideas that Harris discusses in her work. Although I have no authority on the subject, it seems to me that there are generally two types of cuisine that have originated from the African inspired dishes of slaves that Harris explores – Soul food and Southern Food. To help define the difference between these two cooking styles, I have looked at a few articles including this one, and I will admit it is difficult to find a great distinction in the actual recipes and ingredients themselves. It is rather, it seems, the meaning that each cuisine implies. I came across many Southern cooking blogs, using cooking styles and ingredients that mirrored the ones that Harris describes in her writing, yet when I looked at the “about me” sections of these sites, I found only middle aged white women as the masterminds behind the recipes. The only blogs or recipe sites with a historical or cultural reference that I came across were composed by black women (and some men) and deemed their cooking “Soul food”. Based simply on these blogs, It seems to me that the adapted African cuisine, recreated by black slaves with American resources, has never been properly praised for its significance. It is only when these traditional dishes are whitewashed and claimed as Southern Cooking that these foods receive any recognition.