PUTTIN ON OLE MASSA by Gilbert--Ed. Osofsky


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Three unabridged nineteenth century American slave narratives, edited and thoughtfully introduced by the author of Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto (1966) and The Burden of Race (1967). These autobiographical accounts by Henry Bibb, William Wells Brown, and Solomon Northrup (the only one seemingly in print at present) reveal as much about the varieties of the freed black man's evaluation of white society as about the hideous realities of slavery. All three were attempting to reach the understanding of a white audience--Bibbs' declamatory flourishes echoing the posturings of contemporary popular American literature; Brown's more direct statement; all the achingly pained dignity of Northrup, who was born a freedman in New York. However, through the narratives runs a shrouded rage at the humiliation as well as physical suffering forced upon the beleaguered ego. Some ancient myths are squelched in passing. There is an abhorrence of ""white"" religion (""religious teaching consists in teaching the slave. . . that God made him for a slave""); of the ""kindly"" master who ever so kindly perpetuates the degradation of slavery; of American ideology. Freedom is also an identity: ""I was not only hunting for my liberty, but also hunting for a name."" The adventures of the three are shocking but these are pleas less for pity than for justice.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1969
Publisher: Harper & Row