Racial Identity And Identity In The Slave Mother As A Bystander

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In 19th century America, citizens did not really know who they were. Those who were privileged knew they were white Americans and those were not blessed with privilege were black slaves. America was constantly building itself and shaping, or re-shaping, its identity. As a whole, whether one was white or black during this time period, no one really seemed to know who they really were. Morality, sexual identity, racial identity, culture, and etc. were all questioned during this time. In “The Slave Mother” by Francis E.W. Harper, the reader follows from the perspective of a bystander and learns about a female slave who is ultimately taken away from her brother in the end. Though this poem may seem like a simple, clichéd story, there is much that can be learned from the ten stanzas given. In “The Slave Mother,” preconceived characteristics about slave mothers and how families were treated, identities addressed in the poem, and a transformed sentimentalism are all challenged and discussed. During this time, black mothers and families were not protected unless their masters had a kind and understanding heart. Most white citizens in the South found black women, in particular, to be victims, sexually promiscuous, and—if they had children—bad mothers. Black women had a worse reputation than black men …show more content…
Harper, using a bystander as the voice and perspective, is accusative towards her audience as she uses “Heard you…?” and “Saw you” to gain a response. She wants her reader(s) to try and immersive themselves into the poem and listen for the shrieks in the air, try to see the mother’s clasps hands, etc. Harper does not want her audience to only read the poem like any other so she revises sentimentalism from the familiar scenes they are used to such as scenes of the middle class, white woman domesticity, etc. and uses ideas such as liberation and resistance in this

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