The history of America has always involved the horrific topic of slavery. It is embedded in the textbooks of young children for the education of American history, which includes the tragic institution of slavery. The South revolved around slavery during the early development of the country in the 1800’s. The southern states were the ringleaders and spokespeople for slavery while the northern and western states were considered free states. Beloved is a novel set in Cincinnati, Ohio circa 1873 after the Civil War.
In Beloved, characters use aid, relationships based on trust, and unity in their communities to protect themselves against the horrors of slavery.
The gift of food to Denver from members of the community is an example of aid within the community. After Sethe loses her job due to tardiness, the amount of food in Bluestone began to run low (Morrison). This causes Denver to starve and turn to her community in search for aid during these tough times. The community steps up to the plate by anonymously leaving different meals outside of 124 Bluestone, the house of Sethe and Denver (Fredericksen).
The food ranged from small to large portions, “Two days later Denver stood on the porch and noticed something lying on the tree stump at the edge of the yard. She went to look and found a sack of white beans. And there another time a plate of cold rabbit meat. One morning a basket of eggs sat there.” (Morrison 249). This shows how large of an impact a community can have, even when taking small steps such as leaving sack of white beans outside of 124 Bluestone.
The exorcism of Beloved from 124 Bluestone is another example of community aid in Beloved. Beloved returned from the dead and taunted Seth for murdering her as a baby (Crayton 112). The women of the community united in order to exorcise Beloved so Sethe could release the burdens that Beloved had placed on her. The actions of thirty women in the community allowed Sethe to be freed from the strain that Beloved had placed upon her life. Communities built in a city or town were the closest idea of family that slaves had been exposed to (Fredericksen). The selling of their family members, by their owners, was imminent. They failed to build strong relationships within their immediate families because of this (Crayton 103).
Paul D’s connections within the community in Alfred, Georgia allowed him to escape slavery and its’ harsh conditions (Jesser). Alfred, Georgia, a place where he was forced to work after the attempted murder of Brandywine, was a prison for Paul D. Chain work was required of the prisoners who were woken up by a gunshot each morning to complete arduous work. One night it began to rain and the floor of the cells turned to mud which caused a mudslide. This allowed the prisoners to successfully escape to a Cherokee tribe who later helped unleash them from their chains. Dedication from each prisoner was enormous as explained in this quote from Beloved, “The chain that held them would save all or none” (Morrison 110). This quote explains how much the prisoners needed to depend on each other. In order for their plan to be executed successfully, everyone was needed for it was a “team” effort. If the escape plan failed, they would have been abused or even killed as a punishment for attempting to run away. At that point, leaving one person behind was not an option for the prisoners, especially since they were connected by the chains (Morrison 110). It was the community that they had formed within their prison that allowed them to escape triumphantly. Sweet Home, on the other hand, was a type of fake community created by the owner, Mr. Garner (Jesser). Mr. Garner saw the slaves as being property and not human beings like himself (Clayton 103). He grants the plantation the name of Sweet Home while it was actually the opposite of the name given. The name implies that Sweet Home was a type of utopia, or perfect place, which in fact it was the complete opposite (Jesser). Once the slaves worked together to devise a plan, the faux or fake community became a real community. Although the plan was unsuccessful, the trust they built in the members of their community was immense.
Communities can be brought together by many common interests such as religion. People would call fellow members of their congregation brothers and sisters in Christ almost referring to them as a second family. In Beloved, the community united in a place named the Clearing, a location in the woods where religious gatherings were held, and the congregation was able to worship freely. Baby Suggs, the leader of the congregation, was used to unite this community. She preached of “grace and love” in her sermons (Jesser). The community depended on her to be a source of unity. The Clearing was a place where the African Americans would not be disturbed by their Caucasian neighbors (Jesser). It provided the community and its members with a safe place to express themselves without fear of ridicule. The space was free of “cultural domain” and the politics that the white people had continuously brought into their lives and communities (Jesser).
Even though these slaves did not have family members that they could depend on, they were able to rely on their communities to be their second family. Like Denver, slaves used the community as a support system. For Denver it was the act of receiving kindness from the community whether it be in physical or emotional form. They could trust and use them for help when needed. Slaves were constantly torn apart and did not understand the concept of having a family. The emancipation or becoming free from slavery changed their lives and provided time for having and raising a family (Clayton 103). The aid that was provided by the community was immense and needed for the communities to remain stable. Relationships that were built on trust were required in order for the slaves to escape and reach their ultimate goal of building a new life away from slavery. Unity provided the communities with a sense of togetherness that allowed them to trust members within the community. The use of aid, trust, and unity in a community can create an unbreakable bond between its members. These communities were created because they were all alike and used empathy to relate to each other. Through these hardships, the slaves were able to retain relationships and create communities for support.