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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very important to keep slave narratives alive for many reasons. First, it is important to keep a record of our history no matter how horrible things are. Second, by remembering the past, we might have the wisdom not to make the same mistakes in the future. The wise person will learn from the past. Third, slave narratives are important in that these narratives offer the oppressed the ability to speak for themselves. This is important, as Spivak, the post-colonialist theorist has repeatedly stated. Finally, these narratives help us to understand where we are today and gives us insights into what we must do as we look into the future.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first reason I can think of is that it is important to understand what slavery was like.  Without first person accounts, there would be a big gap in our understanding of slavery.  (Of course, we still have a big gap because only a very few ex-slaves ever wrote narratives.)

The second thing is related to that.  It is important to have these because they allow the slaves to have a voice of their own.  These were people who had been kept as powerless as possible.  It is very important for them to have a voice and to be heard and acknowledged as people.

I can't actually think of anymore.  Maybe others can help...

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that you can get more than five, and the previous thoughts have reflected this.  Initially, the presence of slave narratives help to expand our own moral and spiritual imagination in terms of being able to identify and understand the experiences of others.  Few can attest to what exactly slavery was like, but reading the narratives of Douglass or Equiano, one has a stronger understanding of what it means to be a slave.  This would lead to another reason underscoring their importance, in that individuals can better understand the horrors of slavery through the understanding and absorption of first hand experience.

dixon349 | Student

Slave narratives are an important contribution to the early American republic cannon. This type of literature demonstrates how persons that were enslaved reacted to their situation and how they found a way to live in the world. For example, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 – 31 March 1797,) also known as Gustavus Vassa, was one of the most prominent Africans involved in the British movement of the abolition for the slave trade. His autobiography depicted the horrors of slavery and helped influence British lawmakers to abolish the slave trade through the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Despite his enslavement as a young man, he eventually purchased his freedom.

Offering a fragmentary, microcosmic representation of slave life, slave narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America's four million slaves. Some of the most compelling themes of nineteenth-century slavery, including labor, resistance and flight, family life, relations with masters, and religious belief can be found in these texts.

Challenging the conscience of a nation, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Nat Turner, Harriet A. Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, William Wells Brown, Henry Bibb, and Frederick Douglass are among others who have written an account of their lives as a slave.

mkcapen1 | Student

1) Slave narratives provide man with the opportunity to better understand the experiences of slaves from the people who had endured the experience.  2) By having narratives from former slaves humanity is able to better understand why the system was considered to be cruel and inhumane and to learn from the errors made in the past that would allow one human to treat another human in such as despicable manner.

3) One of the greatest things about narratives from former slaves that I have discovered is that each one is as unique as the person who ahs written them.  It is true that each person experienced some of the same conditions, but the individual interpretation and way in which the individual speaks his narrative is what makes the narratives so important. 

4) It is a form of historical documentation.

5)  It is a way for mankind to learn from the mistakes of the past.

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