Two Views of Slavery
During the time prior to the twentieth century our world accepted slavery as a normal part of life. Aphra Behn and Phillis Wheatley, both female authors born about 100 years apart, had their own views of slavery and wrote poems and stories about the subject. These women were physically different, Aphra was a Caucasian, and Phillis was an African American, and their lives were rather different as well. Aphra was a spy and playwright, who lived the middle class life and Phillis, was a slave who was taken from her homeland, brought to America, sold into slavery, then later freed. I believe that both writers’ views were difficult to figure out, especially by just reading their works.
Phillis was born in Senegal/Gambia and was sold into slavery as a very young child. She was acquired by the Wheatley family when she was very young and served her masters wife. She was treated much kinder than most slaves during this period, even though she was bought and held almost as a prisoner as most slaves were. Even though she was considered a slave she was afforded the luxury of learning English and Latin and was allowed to read and as a result admired writers such as John Milton and Alexander Pope. It’s hard to tell what her view on slavery might be. In some of her writings she suggests that slavery was not really a bad thing, as most believe it is/was. In her poem, On being Brought from Africa to America, she tells the story of her journey from her homeland to America. She speaks of how mercy and God’s will brought her from her “pagan land”. (Wheatley 359) In this poem it seems she avoids telling the true story about being kidnapped from her family and everything she knows and loves. Then the poem goes on to say that some people looked at blacks with contempt and hatred, however, instead of the word black, she uses “sable” which has a much more refined sound and meaning. Also in the last line of the poem, she writes “Remember Christians, Negroes black as Cain, May be refined and join the angelic strain” (Wheatley 359). She may be trying to force the Christian view to say that God does not see color, and all are welcome in Heaven. She could have been afraid to write about how she really felt, and this was her way of “sugar coating” her true feelings of her ancestry and being a Negro and also of being enslaved.
On the other hand, in To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for North America her story seems to change as she tells the story of being kidnapped from Africa from her parents and how they were heartbroken, “That from a father seized his babe beloved” (Wheatley 359), and prays that no one else has to go through this type of ordeal. Also in this work, it seems that she could be comparing her slavery to the bondage that England had over the new colonies in America. In her view, she may have accepted slavery since her life was so different than most slaves of that time, and didn’t...