Harris’ piece starts off by talking a bit about slave history then about how the states went about abolishing slavery and finally hits the central point of her article – the food cooked by the slaves and how they affected everything else around them. The thing that I found the most interesting (or surprising) was just how diverse the meals were that the slaves ate. They fished for “catfish, porgies, mullet…” and even had land to farm their own “okra, chili peppers, and eggplants”. Although the food they were given by their masters was usually rationed, they all gathered around as a community after work to cook their food. They celebrated holidays like Christmas and had Sundays as “free time”.

There’s so much more history attached to their lives and the meals they ate than I originally thought. Having taken an entire year on American History in high school, none of this information is every mentioned. Slaves are always depicted as over-worked slaves that are starving and essentially, they have no life outside of working. They work from dawn to dusk and are mistreated by their slave masters. The viewpoint is always seen from their masters and never from the slaves themselves – so this image that can be seen from this piece is a bit jarring. It’s almost as if history textbooks have clumped all slaves together into one category called “slaves” and have created a stereotypical image of them. Harris’ piece refutes this and mentions that as you go more south or west, “the harder they [the slaves] are worked, and the worse they are used”.

My question would be is it acceptable to clump these slaves together as one instead of showing their lives as they were in Harris’ article? Why don’t we focus more on the live of these slaves considering there was an entire war about them? I feel like depicting them all as one isn’t correct for those slaves that had a more “normal” life. This article shows that for slavery – it’s a very messy and blurry line that I feel like hasn’t been drawn properly.

3 Comments

  1. It’s also important to note that the mainstream history of America is a mostly white history. With a few exceptions, most of the major names we focus on are white men, with most of the focus on Black history confined to discussions of slavery and the civil rights movement. The grouping of all black people into these two categories lessens their contributions in the eyes of history, and allows for the more dominant white narrative to retain its place.

  2. I think in history, the group which is being oppressed receives a generalized description of the suffering which they are placed under. Rarely is there work that delves further than the stereotypical platitudes towards the more complex issues. As Andrew stated above, we are still dealing with issues form the past, not honoring the lives and stories which we should have learned from. By looking at the individuals, instead of groups we are able to relate to our past further than we would through an opaque lens of generalizations.

  3. I think that one reason we tend to clump slavery together into one idea is that it makes our troublesome past easier to cope with. Obviously, this time in American history is looked on today as shameful, yet we’re still dealing with issues on rectifying the errors of the past. The stereotypical image is far from accurate, yet people look at it in order to see the issue as simplistic, as well as remove themselves from what was at the time a moral ambiguity for many.

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