Raised as the daughter of a well-to-do, white Mississippi planter, Iola Leroy learns later on in life that she has African blood and is consequently sold as a slave. After being freed, Iola pledges the remainder of her life to live as a black woman instead of passing. The shameful experiences she had during her time as a slave and her admiration for the African American race to which she newly belonged were the motivating factors of her decision to live as a black woman and labor for racial uplift.
“… I was sold from State to State as an article of merchandise. I had outrages heaped on me which might well crimson the cheek of honest womanhood with shame, but I never fell into the clutches ...view middle of the document...
Gresham why they could, under no circumstances, be married.
Iola was undeniably abused, victimized and raped while she was in the hands of numerous (at least seven) slave-owners. She “had outrages heaped on [her] which might well crimson the cheek of honest womanhood in shame”. An outrage is defined as “an act of violence or brutality” (merriam-webster.com). Iola is telling Dr. Gresham that she had brutal violence “heaped” on her. A heap gives us the image of an untidy mess or a pile of trash, things are laid one thing on top of the other. What Iola is trying to emphasize to Gresham here is that she was at the bottom of the pile; these messes were on her. Although she doesn’t name these horrific crimes as rape specifically, she also gives us the image of an honest woman blushing. We picture the face of a woman who has experienced something shameful; an experience that she didn’t want to happen to her.
Iola “never fell into the clutches of an owner for whom [she] did not feel the utmost loathing and intensest horror.” (115) Not only did she hate every single owner she fell into the possession of, she was extremely disgusted by them and exceedingly apprehensive of each one. Not one of the owners had treated her the same way her father had treated his slaves; for she “never saw [her] father strike one of them” (97). In emphasizing her disgust and fear of these men, Iola was attempting to hammer in the point to Gresham that there was no way she could ever chose to marry him. Her slave owners were all the same, and Gresham, being white himself, would eventually degrade her the way they did. Even if his degradation of her was not as extreme as theirs, in her mind he would someday deny even his own children if they showed “unmistakable signs of color” (117).
“[She] had heard men talk glibly of the degradation of the Negro…”. Iola had heard people speak about the way that slaves were treated, but their conversations had shown little forethought about the dreaded things that were really going on. Slavery had been mentioned in a nonchalant and superficial way that didn’t even come close to explaining all that was happening to the Negro people. She was struggling to get Gresham to ask himself, how could one speak with so much ease, to the point of being insincere, about the horrors and atrocities that the Negro people were facing?
“… there is a vast difference between abasement of condition and degradation of character. [She] was abased, but the men who trampled on [her] were the degraded ones.” (115). The words abase and abasement are used in this passage to give emphasis to the fact that Iola was “lowered physically”. She wasn’t tempted by any of these men, she was physically brought down by their mistreatment and abuse. Iola answers Gresham by repeating that she was “not tempted”, “never tempted”. Being tempted is to be enticed to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain – Iola can’t stress enough that she was never enticed by any of the men that had her...