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African American Slave Narratives

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1. Slave Narratives is a form of American Literature which began late in the eighteenth century as freed African American slaves began publishing the accounts of their journey from slavery to freedom. The purpose of creating these slave narratives was ultimately to expose slavery to outsiders for the inhumane and unjust institution it truly was. These autobiographical slave narratives reveal the day-to-day life of the slaves, their values, ideas hopes, aspirations and fears they faced during their time in bondage. They also illustrate the pain and suffering that was inflicted upon them both physically and emotionally from their white supremacists.

One of the most influential and inspiring slave narratives is Harriet Jacob's, Incident in the life of Slave Girl. In her narrative Harriet Jacob under her pen name Linda Brent, describes in vivid-detail her rising from the depths of despair to overcome seemingly impossible odds in order to obtain her freedom. Harriet Jacobs allows the reader to relive the gripping account of the experiences that fueled her determination to remain hidden in her masters attic for seven years, and tells of her struggles to assure the freedom of her children. Her book was one of the first narratives that discussed the sexual harassment and abuse endured by slave women by their masters and was used as a weapon, along with other slave narratives as a weapon in the war against abolition.

2. Due to the American Industrial Revolution technological advantages resulted in a major economic transition and the workplace and home which had once been one had now separated. With the birth of both a public and private sphere, the "Cult of True Womanhood" written by Barbara Welter, was created an essay in order to define the realm of women's work that was and is expected of women in the private sphere as well as the characteristics a good woman should exhibit such as being virtues and submissive. In order to possess virtue and be submissive to men, women were required to adapt what Barbara calls the four characteristics of "True Womanhood" which include piety, purity, submission and domesticity. Women became greatly influenced by this essay and began applying its principles to their daily lives which have ultimately shaped the roles of women and men in terms of their roles on society.

These principles which state that men are to work and support the family financially and that women were required to marry and solely tend to their domestic duties has created not only tension, but division among the male and female genders. Women were now constrained to the domestic spheres of life in which they were responsible for cooking, cleaning, raising children and tending to the needs of her husband, whereas men controlled the public sphere of life in which he was able to obtain an income and be involved in the politics of his community. This ideology of having two separate sphere



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