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Are there any similiarities between the two sources, Maria Stewart's "A Little Better...

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jakande | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted July 10, 2013 at 4:57 PM via web

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Are there any similiarities between the two sources, Maria Stewart's "A Little Better Than Slavery" and Richard Allen's "The Rise of African American Churches," in terms of the effectiveness of their words?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 11, 2013 at 5:11 AM (Answer #1)

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One distinct similarity between both writings is to convey the reality of how enslavement impacts the narrative of people of color.  This can be seen in the opening lines of Allen's writing:

I was born in the year of our Lord 1760, on February 14th, a slave to Benjamin Chew, of Philadelphia. My mother and father and four children of us were sold into Delaware State, near Dover, and I was a child and lived with him until I was upwards of twenty years of age, during which time I was awakened and brought to see myself poor, wretched and undone, and without the mercy of God must be lost. 

The language that Allen uses to to convey the condition of bondage is meaningful.  Words such as "sold," "poor, wretched, and undone" are relevant in this context as they vividly portray what it means to live in the state of American slavery.

Stewart's writing is similar in the language it uses to depict a condition in which individuals are denied opportunity because of their race.  For Stewart, the life where denial of one's opportunities and chance to experience "the vast field of useful and scientific knowledge" is a life not worth living:

Most of our color have dragged out a miserable existence of servitude from the cradle to the grave. And what literary acquirement can be made, or useful knowledge derived, from either maps, books, or charts, by those who continually drudge from Monday morning until Sunday noon?…. I am also one of the wretched and miserable daughters of the descendants of fallen Africa. Do you ask, why are you so wretched and miserable? I reply, look at many of the most worthy and most interesting of us doomed to spend our lives in gentlemen’s kitchens. 

The language used to evoke this condition is similar to Allen's.  The use of "wretched" is one such example. The condition of being "miserable" is seen in both works with multiple words used to convey the same effect.

There seems to be two distinct points of divergence between both writings.  Allen is articulating a condition in which slavery is the defining condition in the life of the African- American.  Stewart takes a different approach in her contention that any life in which opportunity is denied is only "a little better than slavery."  In her mind, slavery has not cornered the market as the ultimate condition of hell for African- Americans.  Rather, she sees the conditions in the North in which people of color live a blighted existence only a "little better than slavery."  I would also suggest that a critical difference in both works is that Stewart is much more defiant and voices a much harsher critique of American society than what is seen in Allen's writing.  Allen is writing from the position of spiritual identity  as having played a major role in the development of his consciousness.  He references this repeatedly in his writing.  Stewart takes a much more secular approach, contributing to her tone being significantly more pointed than Allen's.  

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