Bias In "The View From The Bottom Rail" By James West Davidson And Mark Hamilton Lytle

997 words - 4 pages

- -What does the word bias mean? Bias is a mental predilection or prejudice. The essay 'The View from the Bottom Rail' by James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle opened my eyes on how American history could be looked at as one sided and even bias. Even today there is still bias in America. In today's society, racism and stereotyping occur in all aspects of life. It can occur because of one's gender, race, religion, culture, economic status, etc. It even occurs amongst our finest, our law enforcement officials.'The View from the Bottom Rail' explains the history of slavery. It implies a lack of accuracy from the people that the information was obtained, either black or white. Most of the black slaves could not read or write. The ones that did, hid it from their masters. Because of this, most of the written books and documents and even diaries on slavery were written by the white masters. At that time most of recorded history was based on how the white masters viewed slavery. You did not get a view on slavery from the slaves themselves.In the 1920's, black scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles Johnson, and Carter Woodson, started a project to collect oral evidence from former slaves who were still living. Even these interviews could not be viewed as 100% accurate. One example, is a geographic bias. The people that were interviewed were only a very small portion of the millions of freed slaves. Counting the number of slaves interviewed from each state, it was discovered that there were only 155 interviews from black people living in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky, which is about 6% of the total number of published interviews. Twenty-three percent of the southern slave population lived in those states. In these statistics, the upper-south was unrepresented.Another example would be the ages of the ex-slaves interviewed. Two-thirds of them were over 80 years of age, leaving the question of how accurate were their memories. Also, most of the interviewees were under the age of 20 when they were slaves. Since the conditions for children were not as harsh compared to adults, they might have an optimistic view of slavery.Finally, the different effects the interviewer had on the interviewees. There were two interviews done on the same lady named Susan Hamlin by two different interviewers. One interviewer was a white lady named Jessie Butler and the other was a black man named Augustus Ladsons. Susan thought Jessie was from the welfare office. Susan possibly told Jessie what she thought Jessie would want to hear in order to increase her chances of getting a welfare check. She spoke of her master as though he was the kindest. All the slaves loved their master. He gave them shoes in the winter. He kept the children with their mothers and when the war started he took everyone including the slaves to a safer place. On the other hand, Susan told Augustus a totally different story. She spoke of the...

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