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Slavery was the most inhumane practice in history where a human being rips off the right of being a human of another person. This brutal and manipulative operation was what many Africans had endured for decades in the Western world. After long periods of consistent resistance, going through different forms of slavery, they were given freedom and improved rights.
Kindred by Octavia Butler is one of the fictional novels that truly portrays the cruel nature of slavery and the resilience of the enslaved in the US in the 1800s.
The novel surrounds Dana, a black woman, time-travelling to the 1800s when slavery was a common practice in the South and exploring the history of her ancestors. During her trip, she witnessed how Tom Weylin, a white man in Southern US, whipped the enslaved brutally when they did not get the work done as expected. Their family members were sold when their owners needed money and enslaved women were exploited for their bodies against their will.
The novel showed multiple forms of everyday resistance among the enslaved. Some tried to live with it for the safety of their family and their own, but there were also those who resolutely resisted for their existence and freedom. In the novel, Luke, while always says ‘yes’ to his master’s commands, secretly disobey Tom’s orders. However, this act resulted in him being sold. Alice and Isaac ran away when Alice was almost raped by Rufus, the son of the planter owner, however, the attempt was unsuccessful and resulted in Isaac losing an ear and being sold, and Alice was forced to sleep with Rufus.
Near the end of the novel, Alice committed suicide when she thought her children was sold, and Dana had to kill Rufus, her white ancestor, because he attempted to rape her.
The same brutality was observed in The Last Supper, a movie by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, but in a slightly different setting. However, we can see that because of these harsh treatments, there were always some enslaved who tried to escape despite knowing beforehand that the cost of being caught could be their lives. Antonio in the film is an example; he received multiple whips and punishments, but never gave up on obtaining his freedom, and at the end of the movie, his resilience led to his success. Not only Antonio, but other enslaved in the movie revolt when they did not have a day off as promised by the Count. They tried to negotiate but ended up killing the overseer and burning the sugar mill when they heard that the Count shot their own people. One of the slaves jumped off the cliff after being chased by the whites for revolting in the sugar mill.
The novel and the film are portraits of real-life occurrences of the slave trade and the evil and racism lied within the Western society. Within this slave system were resilient Africans who longed for, but also were deprived of freedom and human rights, who were brave and loyal, but also were humans who have their limits, and who fought courageously for themselves and their own people. Their resistance happened every day and every time in the past, however, the strict security and brutality of the system allowed very few to succeed. Therefore, the victory of the Haitian Revolution was a remarkable and transformative event of resistance in that it was able to free many enslaved Africans from the French colonies and establish Haiti nation ruled by Africans. It empowered the black communities and gave terror to the Western hemisphere. The fear is clearly shown in The Last Supper, in which the Count repeatedly says that “This is not Santo Domingo” (1:38:20-1:38:25) after his sugar mill had been burned down. The revolution left a moral message that Africans are humans and they are in no way inferior than other humans of different skin color, that they deserve freedom and they would do whatever it takes for their independence and security. They are strong-willed and hardworking people who were the silent contributors to the economic success of Americas and Europe.
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