Antebellum Slave Narrative

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Alisa Ridout
Dr. Gerald
English 341
2 October 2010
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself and Other Antebellum Slave Narratives (Black Rhetoric Inside a White Envelope)
The antebellum era is the time period before the Civil War. During this time in the newly established nation of the United States there was a form of racism in America called slavery and it provided the "cornerstone of social, economic, and political order" in the South (157). It has been said that "the antebellum slave narrative carried a black message inside a white envelope" (158). This new genre of writing was popular from 1746 to 1865. It encapsulated religious, political, economic, and literary elements that were significant to the growing movement towards freedom and abolishment of slavery. During the time of slavery within the United States whites were entitled by law to dominate the social order. However, blacks recognized the Christian gospel as common ground with whites and so used it as a vehicle for change in their literature and discourse. This formed the foundation for the abolitionist movement and the birth of the fugitive slave narrative.

On page 154 of The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature it is stated that the first black people to come to North America were not slaves, however, but explorers. "Under chattel slavery, the African imported to North America was divested as much as possible of his or her culture. The newly minted slave was relegated to a condition that the historian Orlando Patterson has termed 'social death.'" It is said that what gave American chattel slavery its uniquely oppressive character and power was its insistence that enslavement was the natural and proper condition for particular races of people.

One example of slave narrative is The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself which was published in...
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