Althea Clarke AFAS1001 Midterm.docx - Althea Clarke Intro...

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Althea Clarke Intro to African American Studies Midterm: Part A Question 3, Freedom and Gender October 25, 2020 The narrative constructed through the institution of slavery in America has prevented black people from truly being free from the constrines of race. The black woman has neither freedom from the constrines of race nor freedom from the construction, or lack thereof, of her sexuality and gender representation. Slavery eliminated the concept of a childhood for many black kids, as seen in Mary Prince’s narrative, who was assigned to be another child’s slave at a very young age. When sold, her mother said “see, I am shrouding my poor children; what a task for a mother!” (Prince 15) Prince’s own mother is powerless, forced to send her own children into unknown and bleak situations. Meanwhile, Prince was expected to care for children herself, to mother some other mother’s child, while her own mother was stripped away from her. This is representative of an early construction of the mammy trope. Prince was expected to care for her white family with more love and care than was afforded for her own family. The mammy caricature draws on this to assume contentedness within white spaces, to construct an asexual caregiver. The mammy becomes a part of their white family, only because they assimilate to the white families prioritization, often expected to shun or forget their own family. However, as the mammy is usually a reliable figure within the family home, she is never to forget her place as a subordinate. For example, although Mary Prince was at times left alone in her slavemaster’s home, she was still beaten and brutalized at the slightest inconvenience. (Prince 30) Harriet Jacobs was victim to yet another racist trope, that of the jezebel. Her childhood was taken from her not to be replaced with a mothering role, instead with a sexually explicit one.
At fifteen, Jacobs’s master began sexually harassing her. And yet it could not even be called such as she was and as he often reminded her, “his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things.” (Jacobs, V. Trials of Girlhood) Jacobs depicts the young slave girl's adolescence as fleeting, as early as twelve she will learn of her mistress's jealousy and her master’s desires. “She will become prematurely knowing in evil things. Soon she will learn to tremble when she hears her master’s footfall. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a child. If god has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse.” (Jacobs, V. Trials of Girlhood) The young slave girl fears her sexuality and beauty as it only leads to pain and suffering. This reflects another form of slavery, the bonds on self love. However, as Jacobs and countless others have depicted their sexual abuse, a trope was constructed by white society that portrayed the alternate, the hypersexual black woman. Even as mistresses were overcome by jealousy at their husbands’ escapades, the black woman was blamed for these abuses. The jezebel trope was created as a

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