Slave Narratives As Abolitionist Arguments Essay

2259 words - 9 pages

From the period of Antebellum America up into the present time, many documents and pieces of work have been published regarding the abolition of slavery and slavery in general. Regarding the abolition of slavery, slave narratives were one of the ways to get readers first hand look at accounts of slavery and in turn were a big part of abolitionist movements. In class we have read three of the great slave narratives and there are abolitionist themes that can be traces through all three of them. These themes argued against slavery and were used to persuade their readers to support the abolition of slavery. Although there were many similar themes through out the narratives I will be focusing on just two of the most effective ways that argue for the abolition of slavery: slavery seen as a slow poison, and emotion through extreme cruelty and suffering.
The argument of slavery portrayed as a “slow poison” can be seen throughout the three narratives that are the basis for this paper. The “slow poison” being that slavery is a slow poison that effects not only blacks and whites but everyone around and subjected to slavery. The most obvious people that are effected by slavery are the slaves but there are many examples of whites and their families being effected by slavery also. The Epps family from Twelve Years a Slave is a good example of how slavery can tear apart a family. Mr. and Mrs. Epps were happily married until their marriage became challenged by Mr. Epp’s liking to a slave girl named Patsey. Mrs. Epps became jealous over their relationship and over time their marriage became broken and Mr. Epps became an alcoholic to deal with his marriage and his near constant whipping of his slaves. Mrs. Epp’s jealousy and hatred for Patsey can be seen in the passage on page 199, “The pride of the haughty woman was aroused; the blood of the fiery southern broiled at the sight of Patsey, and nothing less than trampling out the life of the helpless bondwoman would satisfy her”.1 Not only did slavery destroy the Epp’s marriage but also corrupt their children by teaching them inhumane behaviors.
Another example of the children becoming corrupt under this “slow poison” is when Wells Brown is beaten by slaveholder’s sons on page 28, “I was attacked by several large boys, sons of slave-holders, who pelted me with snow-balls...pelting me with stones and sticks”.2 Slavery, through the slow poison, also caused people to have no remorse, like Major Freeland who would “tie them up in the smoke-house, and whip them; after which, he would cause a fire to be made of tobacco stems, and smoke them”3, also Mr. Walker who gifted away a woman’s infant for disturbing him with its cry. Slavery caused even the most respectable kind of people to do horrendous things, like Col. Harney, a US officer who whipped a slave woman to death. At times slavery even caused whites to be untruthful to other whites like when Cook beats Randall, who has always aimed to please his overseers and...

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