What are some quotes from The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar?

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Africans may be our inferiors, but they exhibit the same qualities we possess, even if they are merely imitating us. Their management is best exemplified by an approach that treats them first and foremost as subjects of God, though blessed with lesser faculties, and therefore suited to the trade of...

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Africans may be our inferiors, but they exhibit the same qualities we possess, even if they are merely imitating us. Their management is best exemplified by an approach that treats them first and foremost as subjects of God, though blessed with lesser faculties, and therefore suited to the trade of slavery.

This statement by Mr. Whitechapel encapsulates the view held by many Southern slave owners as to their role and a slave's role. While some continued to assert the complete inhumanity of their slaves, many accepted that they were dealing with human beings, yet it was imperative that they have some justification for their enslavement of fellow humans in a nation founded on the doctrines of human dignity and freedom, and as Christians many of them found such a justification in the Bible. Whitechapel was one of those planters who came to believe that slaves, while human, were intellectually inferior to them, better suited to manual labor, and that it was white people's divine ordination to rule and manage them in performing this work.

Your policy of a judicious whip failed to save him. There is only one whip, it eats flesh.

Another common justification that Southern slave owners like Mr. Whitechapel sometimes turned to was to assert that as enlightened men, they had a duty to treat slaves without excessive brutality. Here however, in the telling personification of the whip can be seen the grim reality of Mr. Whitechapel’s moralistic doctrine, which ultimately boils down to violence.

Our line of work is slaves, we can’t change the fact. We do it the way we think best serves our investment.

The economic argument for the preservation of slavery exercised more of an influence on Southern society than many planters cared to admit. The truth was, even given the high moral aspirations assumed by Mr. Whitechapel and other such planters, the Southern plantation system was dependent on slaves who would perform the difficult work involved in harvesting cotton, the South’s largest export. Especially after the invention of the cotton gin, Southern dependence on the crop reached such a pitch that they were ready to defy the federal government and bring about civil war. Despite his comparatively enlightened position on his slaves, freeing them is out of the question.

“How could your Whitechapel watch and not intervene?”

“He lost a son in deference to authority.”

“Name your price. That slave of yours is a slaver’s dream.”

Mr. Whitechapel’s slave is a “slaver’s dream” because he is docile, appeasing the plantation owner as opposed to rebelling as Chapel had. He is also considered a "good slave" for revealing his runaway son's location, having done so in the hope that Mr. Whitechapel would spare Chapel's life. The emotional tax this takes on Whitechapel the slave can be seen through his own narrative, and the reader who has access to both is invited to make their own judgements concerning his complicity.

By teaching little Whitechapel to read and write when he can never use it you have done him the gravest injustice.

The education of slaves in the pre-civil war South was frowned upon, as it was thought to encourage autonomous thought, which was considered dangerous for slaves. In his narrative detailing his own experiences as a slave, Frederick Douglass recalled one of slavery’s greatest torments as being his inability to find any outlet for his education. Likewise for Chapel, having the education to understand his situation yet no means to apply it must have been maddening and would have likely contributed to his decision to run away.

There are two types of slave: the slave who must experience everything for himself before coming to an understanding of anything and he who learns through observation. The slave in the first category behaves as if he is the only slave in the world and is visited by the worst luck on earth. That type of slave is agitated, brings much trouble on his head and he makes the lot of every slave ten times worse. It is generally accepted that the slave in the second category is brighter, lives longer, causes everyone around him a minimum of worries and earns the small kindness of the overseer and the master.

In The Longest Memory, the author captures the radically different ways in which human beings responded to enslavement in North America. Where for idealists like Chapel slavery was an abomination which warranted rebellion, for Whitechapel the slave, it was a dangerous path to be negotiated. In the above statement the speaker is clear that the path of docility and appeasement is preferable, not only for that slave but for those around him. Though Whitechapel chose complicity and survival, he dies unhappy and unfulfilled, a testament to the corrosive impact that such a lifestyle has on enslaved people.

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