Thursday, July 14, 2011

in what family are members sold off like cattle?

I recognize the lateness in commenting on this, given that bob vander plaats has reportedly removed the offensive passage from his family leader "marriage vow." the offender was the following:

'Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American president...'

however, since all the brouhaha caused by michelle bachmann and rick santorum signing the pledge in its original form, I've come across this passage in a review of mightier than the sword: "uncle tom's cabin" and the battle for america by david reynolds that answers it nicely:

"[harriet beecher] stowe took pains not to demonize all southerners, or beatify all northerners. in her view, no one was corrupt by nature; the system of slavery spoiled everything and everyone it touched. but her story was effective because it directly assaulted southern pretensions. pro-slavery southerners had been propagating a narrative of their own: slavery was a benevolent institution in which mentally inferior slaves were watched over by owners who treated them as part of their family...stowe's novel exploded this myth of the south as a land of paternalistic slaveholders. her description of tom's sale down the river to the deep south was an expression of slavery's core reality. the historian steven deyle has estimated that more than a million slaves were shipped from the upper south or the lower south between 1790 and 1860...without this domestic trade, the institution of slavery would have collapsed. more slaves were sold south than arrived on the north american continent via the infamous middle passage. they did not suffer the horrors of a transatlantic ocean voyage packed tight in a ship. but they did suffer the anguish of lost mothers, fathers, children, siblings, husbands, and wives. in what 'family,' stowe's book asked, were members treated this way, sold off like cattle by their supposed 'kin'?"

--from "the persuader: what harriet beecher stowe wrought" by annette gordon-reed in the june 13 & 20 issue of the new yorker

it does not take an advanced degree in semiotics to recognize that family leader's wording in its vow owes a considerable amount to the continued existence of a pro-slavery narrative.

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