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Briefly compare the experiences of Venture Smith and Oluadah Equiano with the first...

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jakande | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 14, 2013 at 12:51 AM via web

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Briefly compare the experiences of Venture Smith and Oluadah Equiano with the first hand account by Alexander Falconbridge.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 14, 2013 at 1:37 AM (Answer #1)

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The experiences of Smith and Equiano are confirmed with Falconbridge's account of the fundamental misery that slaves experienced.  The study of slavery has been so prevalent for some time now that it is almost forgotten how much cruelty and agonizing suffering was embedded in the experience.  This is recalled in fierce detail with the three visions offered.

Equiano's narrative embodies this condition of suffering and terror in its very exposition.  In describing his capture, Equiano makes clear that experience of misery which is such a large part of the slave experience:

One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, and ran off with us into the nearest wood.

The language in the selection highlights the misery experienced.  The feeling of being alone ("when all our people were gone out") and in the manner of being "seized" as well as "without giving us a time to cry out" all contribute to the hopelessly miserable condition of slavery from its very inception in the lives of its targets.

This same feeling of misery and terror is seen in Venture Smith's account.  Like Equiano, Smith is able to clearly identify how the misery and terror of slavery are embedded in his capture, setting the tone for what he is to experience as a slave:

They then came to us in the reeds, and the very first salute I had from them was a violent blow on the head with the fore part of a gun, and at the same time a grasp round the neck. I then had a rope put about my neck, as had all the women in the thicket with me, and were immediately led to my father, who was likewise pinioned and haltered for leading. In this condition we were all led to the camp.

The images of pain and suffering are noteworthy here.  The "rope put around my neck" and being "haltered for leading" confirm a "condition" that is hopeless, lacking redemption, and emphasizing a consciousness of misery.

Falconbridge's account confirms what both Smith and Equiano felt was a part of their experience.  Falconbridge, being a White doctor, would have lent credence to such claims.  We now realize no such validation is needed, but during the time period, Falconbridge's words would have helped to convey the same sense of misery and pain that is a definitive part of the slave experience:

The unhappy wretches thus disposed of are bought by the black traders at fairs, which are held for that purpose, at the distance of upwards of two hundred miles from the sea coast; and these fairs are said to be supplied from an interior part of the country. Many Negroes, upon being questioned relative to the places of their nativity, have asserted that they have travelled during the revolution of several moons (their usual method of calculating time) before they have reached the places where they were purchased by the black traders.

....Women sometimes form a part of them, who happen to be so far advanced in their pregnancy as to be delivered during their journey from the fairs to the coast; and I have frequently seen instances of deliveries on board ship....

In examining the words of each thinker, one sees how the condition of misery and pain is a part of what it means to be a slave.

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