The Loss of Self in Slave and Master
"Slavery broke the world in half, it broke it in every way. It made them into something
else, it made them slave masters, it made them crazy. You can't do that for hundred of
years and it not take a toll. They had to dehumanize, not just the slaves, but themselves."
"'Tell em Jenny. You live any better on any place before mine?' 'No sir,' she said. 'No
place.' 'How long was you at Sweet Home?' 'Ten year, I believe.' 'Ever go hungry?' 'No,
sir.' 'Cold?' 'No, sir.' 'Anybody lay a hand on you?' 'No, sir.' 'Did I let Halle buy you or
not?' 'Yes, sir, you did,' she said, thinking But you got my boy and I'm all broke down.
You be renting him out to pay for me way after I'm gone to Glory" (172).
"Baby Suggs thought it was a good time to ask him something she had long wanted to
know. 'Mr. Garner,' she said, 'why you all call me Jenny?' ''Cause that what's on your
sales ticket, gal. Ain't that your name? What you call yourself?' 'Nothing,' she said. 'I
don't call myself nothing.' Mr. Garner went red with laughter. 'When I took you out of
Carolina, Whitlow called you Jenny and Jenny Whitlow is what his bill said. Didn't he
call you Jenny?' 'No, sir. If he did I didn't hear it.' 'What did you answer to?' 'Anything,
but Suggs is what my husband name.' 'You got married Jenny? I didn't know it.' 'Manner
of speaking.' 'You know where he is, this husband?' 'No, sir.' 'Is that Halle's daddy?' 'No,
sir.' 'Why you call him Suggs, then? His bill of sale says Whitlow too, just like yours.'
'Suggs is my name, sir. From my husband. He didn't call me Jenny.' 'What he call you?'
'Baby.' 'Well,' said Mr. Garner, going pink again, 'if I was you I'd stick to Jenny Whitlow.
Mrs. Baby Suggs ain't no name for a freed Negro'" (167).
Although Mr. Garner was a self-labeled "benevolent slave owner," the act of
enslavement required that he dehumanize himself in order to feel owning another person
was morally correct. In
author Toni Morrison explores the idea of
dehumanization in both slave and slave owner. Morrison claims slavery "broke the world