The Abolitionist Movement Essay
Essay Author G. Ondi
The novel The Book of Negroes, written by Lawrence Hill depicts the life of a female African named Aminata, and her rough journey while having to endure slavery. From childhood to adulthood, Aminata faces many tragedies and has many horrifying experiences. Aminata is chosen by members of the abolitionist movement to help their movement and she possesses unique features. Aminata however, does not believe that she would make a difference, but her long life chaning, and horrifying voyage says otherwise.Therefore with her experience, strong character, and ability to adapt to a variety of different environments and situations, Aminata is beneficial to the abolitionist movement.
Firstly, Aminata has experienced more tragic and emotionally devastating events throughout her life, than other may have. This can be seen in a quote from an essay by Lisa Kristine, where she visits and documents slaves who are working on a brick plantation. She writes in her essay: “Enveloped in temperatures of 130 degrees, men, women and children–whole families, in fact–were cloaked in a heavy blanked of dust…Deadened by monotony and exhaustion, the slaves worked silently, repeating this task over and over, sixteen hours a day. There were no breaks for food or water, and the severe dehydration made urinating inconsequential” (Kristine 3).
This quote makes it clear that Aminata has been through and went through more severe physical and mental treatments. While these slaves at this plant received no food or water, Aminata was carried across an ocean, got raped, lost her husband, and many more things happened to her which proves that she has more experience than the average slave. Furthermore, one of the greater and more tragic experiences took place on St. Helena’s Island, at Appleby’s plantation, when Appleby stole and sold Aminata’s baby: “…I saw Robinson Appleby put my baby into a man’s arms up on a carriage…And my baby disappeared into the darkness…I ran to Appleby, beating my hands on his chest” (Hill 209). This is something that is unimaginable, yet it happened to Aminata. Out of all her harsh experiences, this one is definitely that is not forgettable, and thus indeed shows that she has experienced many events, and is also why she can use this to help the abolitionist movement.
Furthermore, throughout the entire novel, Aminata shows a strong sense of pride, dignity, and character. Aminata does not like to show her emotion and pain while in the presence of the buckra. She does this so that they do not receive satisfaction from her suffering. At the time blacks did not receive any respect at all, when they were told to do something, they did; as it can be derived from this text: “Colonial laws regarding statutory rape were not applied to Blacks…Blacks, as well as their children, were prohibited by law from defending themselves against abuse, sexual and otherwise…A slave who defended herself against the attack of a White person was subject to cruel beatings…The females of color received the harshest punishment if discovered in a liaison with a White male” (Browne-Marshall 1). This shows that slaves were not allowed to protect themselves against violence, and as it is evident through the novel, most slaves just followed what they were told to avoid punishment.
However, Aminata shows that she is still proud of who she is and does rebel against the White enslavers, and it is clear through the text: “Georgia was ordered to bring every shred of my clothing to Appleby…”Your clothes,” he said to me. When I hesitated, he tore them off…I made my decision then…I was from Bayo…and I would stand proud. “Throw them in the fire,” Appleby said to me…I did not move. [Georgia]… threw them in the fire. Privately I thanked her… [She] saved my dignity” (Hill 201). This illustrates that Aminata has a strong character. By hesitating to remove her cloths, and by not complying with Appleby to burn them, she demonstrates that she is proud of who she is, and that she will not let her dignity be taken away by anyone, especially in such an embarrassing manner, and condition. Despite her best effort to not show emotional weakness, upon returning to her “home” she does breakdown into tears, but manages to keep it together in the presence of everyone, thus showing the readers that she indeed does have a strong character.
Lastly, Aminata demonstrates her ability to quickly adapt to different environments. There are many instances of her adapting to her surroundings, and one of them is in the very beginning of her journey; when she settles on the ship: “Over the next days, the orange haired toubab showed me how to get out of the cabin and go up on the deck, and where to find compartments there for the male and the female captives…He showed me how to care for his bird. I was to cover the birdcage with a cloth at night and to remove it in the morning. I had to clean out the cage, feed the bird nuts, and give it any other treat” (Hill 87). Through this it is visible that Aminata is given certain tasks to complete while on the ship. She is entrusted with the well-being of the medicine mans parrot, and is given the privilege to roam the ship during the day. She also feeds herself and asks for necessities when she needs them. It is clear through this, that Aminata can adapt to any type of environment. Moreover, another illustration of Aminata and her adaptability can be seen when Mamed takes it onto himself to teach her english: “”I was not planning to teach reading to anyone.
But I have seen the brightness of your eyes…” now I was being offered something I might never have received. I was afraid to reach out and take it, but even more afraid to let it go…”You mustn’t tell anybody about the things I teach…” Our first lesson began with the pronunciation and spelling of my name… then he thought me how to write it” (Hill 177). This quote demonstrates that Aminata will grasp any opportunity that she is offered. Aminata shows the readers that she is willing to learn and approach new things. She uses every bit of knowledge that she receives, and makes use of it, by putting it into practice, and therefore showing that she is capable of adapting to her surroundings.
To conclude, Aminata would be beneficial and would will help further the abolitionist movement with her unique knowledge and experiences. The first instance being her harsh and life changing experiences. In addition, she also contains a strong character which she portrays to the audience throughout her voyage. And lastly, Aminata has the ability to quickly adapt to her surroundings. Through the evidence, Aminata is an excellent candidate for the abolitionist movement.
Hill, Lawrence. The Book of Negroes. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2011. Print.
Kristine, Lisa. Photographing from the Frontlines of Slavery. N.p.: World Literature Today, 2013. Print.
Browne-Marshall, Gloria J. “The Realities of Enslaved Female Africans in America.”Http://academic.udayton.edu/. Failing Our Black Children: Statutory Rape Laws, 2002. Web.
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