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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Slave Narratives

'Readings of Forgotten Slave Narratives' - Sophie Fajardo
“Before coming to that part of my life, where I was enabled by the kind mercy of God, to throw off forever those dreadful chains which kept my soul in heathenish ignorance, and my body in constant torture, I will describe a slave wedding, of which I was an eye-witness.”— from the unpublished slave narrative “Autobiography of Francis Fredric, of Virginia”

Victors do not just write history—rather, they disseminate it, validate it and inculcate it. One example of this paradigm is the one-sided history of the slave experience. Even though many students at Grinnell are familiar with Frederick Douglass’ slave narrative, most slave narratives went un-published. Shanna Benjamin, English, teaches an English Seminar focusing on this group of historic “losers’” written accounts of the pre-Civil War era. Last Monday at noon in Faulconer Gallery, the seminar’s students presented “Readings of Forgotten Slave Narratives.”
Each of Benjamin’s students approached the lectern stoically, evidencing a deep respect for the narratives’ writers. Then these 13 students each read an excerpt from an unpublished slave narrative.
Before reading their narrative, most of the students provided background information about the author of their piece, both to contextualize the readings and to highlight themes of identity, slave society and literacy.

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