The Runaway Slave: An Analysis

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The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave elaborates upon the American Dream’s shortcomings and failures. Concentrated on a previously-enslaved man who escaped the peculiar institution’s bondage, bought his freedom, and struggled to succeed in the abolitionist North, the narrative reveals the troubling racial and class-based parallels that exist between Nineteenth Century and modern-day America. Furthermore, the account disavows the United States’ paradoxical values and demands social and economic justice. Grimes’ work offers insight as to how financial barriers and legal oppression, which disproportionately affect people of color, illuminate the exclusivity of America’s national identity.
Echoing modern tales of fiscal insecurity among minority communities, much of Grimes’ fractured connection with the nation resulted from the destitution he experienced under an unjust government. Grimes wrote of the abolitionist North, “Let it not be imagined that the poor and friendless are entirely free from oppression where slavery does not exist.” Unable to climb the social ladder, the runaway slave
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Reflecting on a life of color and class-based discrimination, Grimes concluded his narrative with the exclamation, “Let the skin of an American slave bind the charter of American Liberty!” This statement, finding motivation in the violence and discrimination that dominated Grimes’ world, obliterates the founding documents and the ideals they represent, as African Americans perpetually suffer under the capitalistic system their ancestors built from the ground. From American classrooms to national monuments, U.S. history must reflect enslaved people’s contributions and the lasting damage slavery wreaked upon the economic standing and legal treatment of nonwhite

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