Images Of African American Woman Essay

1822 words - 7 pages

Paul Zheng

Images of African American Woman

The images of African American women experiences during slavery and after the Emancipation portrayed in Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices is different than how African American women are portrayed in Frederick Douglass's The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass. Both writers give vivid imagery of the lives of African American women. However, Richard Wright's imagery of the Queen Cotton and Mammy marginalize the oppression of African American woman, This is not the case with imageries presented in the writing of Frederick Douglass and Julia Brown in the Slave Narrative. The interpretation in Wright's book shows that women suffer less oppression because of their gender, while Douglass and the poets shown that women suffer the same or more oppression in general during the slavery era and after.

Before one can begin to examine how the authors portrayed the oppression of African Americans women, one must first come to a decision on what "oppression" is exactly. According to Webster's Dictionary, oppression is an unjust or excessive exercise of authority or power and also a sense of being weighed down in mind and body. However, in order to fully understand the word, one must explore deeper into the concept. To be oppressed, one is molded, immobilized, and reduced due to the amount of pressure that is exerted upon him/her from forces present. Oppression cannot be mistaken for how a person feels but is rather a concept that includes feelings. Just because one suffers, does not mean she/she is oppressed. Under these circumstances, there is no doubt that the slave owners had oppressed the blacks during the slavery era.

Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices is an emotional essay filled with expressive images of the African-American women experiences. Wright's images of the African American women experience leads the readers to believe that the black women were oppressed less then the black men. Wright's first image of the Black women slave is that of the "mammy." He states in his book, "Our women fared easier than we men during the early days of freedom; on the whole their relationship to the world was more stable than ours. Their authority was supreme in most of our families inasmuch as many of them had worked in the `big houses' of the lords of the land and had learned manners, had been taught to cook, sew, and nurse" (Wright 36). The "mammy" image was the belief that women held a sort power during slavery that men did not have; the power was in the forms of knowledge and authority. The women benefited from learning manners in their duty and being an authoritative figure in the house of the "land of the lord." Because a "mammy' was important to the daily lives of the "land of the lord," they often enjoyed freedom that men would not usually get the chance to have. According to...

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