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Slave Narratives Essay

1706 words - 7 pages

Slave Narratives

The Classic Slave Narratives give a fascinating, not to mention horrifying, account of the lives of four different slaves: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Fredrick Douglass, and Linda Brent. These slave narratives tell of four African Americans, who went through very troubling times. The lives of these slaves are all similar in one way or another, but are also very different and unique. These accounts help people to realize what the slaves went through, and how hard life actually was for them.

Olaudah Equiano was the only African American of the four that was actually born free. One day while playing with his sister, they both were kidnapped, and separated. He was eventually brought onto a slave ship, and sold to a captain. I think that Olaudah being free before he was a slave helped him in obtaining his freedom. Because he was originally a free man, he knew what it was like, and this fueled his hunger more to be free, and to work harder at purchasing his freedom.

Olaudah didn't have too hard of a life, as far as physical abuse anyway. For the most part of his life he was a sailor on his master's ship. Through this, he learned to speak English, and also navigation from his captain, which helped in capturing his freedom. In this way, he could communicate well and be accepted better with others. Other than learning navigation, his being a sailor had yet another great advantage: to earn him money to gain his freedom, although this had disadvantages. Olaudah was able to do some trading while being a sailor, and in doing this, he was able to save enough up to purchase his freedom. But, by being a slave, he was sometimes harassed and taken advantage of. He tells of a gentleman who bought some rum from him. "Although I used the interest of my friendly captain, I could obtain nothing from it, and could not oblige him to pay me." (135) He went through this trouble quite a bit, and got little respect from the white men, but was eventually able to save up enough to pay his freedom.

Mary Prince's family was all slaves: her mother a household slave and her father a sawyer. She tells of her happy childhood- "This was the happiest period of my life; for I was too young to understand rightly my condition as a slave, and too thoughtless and full of spirits to look forward to the days of toil and sorrow." (253) She hadn't realized that she was a slave, and was not yet burdened with the evils of slavery. This happened quite often with children slaves; they usually live a somewhat happy childhood, until a certain age where it is seen that they are fit enough to join the others in their toils day after day, year after year.

Mary Prince probably had to do some of the hardest physical labor of the four slaves. For most of her life as a slave, she was somewhat of a maid. She took care of the children and did the washing and such. But, for some time in her life, she worked at the salt ponds, where she endeared some very serious health...

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