Consequently he proclaims her theoretically dead to me 188 presumably along

Consequently he proclaims her theoretically dead to

This preview shows page 8 - 10 out of 28 pages.

for the last three years" (188). Consequently, he proclaims her "theoretically dead to me" (188), presumably along with their daughter, Mary Frances, who remained with Malinda. In part, Bibb's invocation of "adultery" appears to be as much an indictment of slavery as of Malinda. As he later concedes, "I bring no charge of guilt against the poor woman" (189), for "a poor slave's wife... can not be true to her husband contrary to the will of her master" (191). Even so, the choice of the word adultery conveniently recasts Malinda's concubinage as a situation over which she somehow has ultimate control; as Anthony speculates, it becomes the excuse for his "fully breaking free of slavery and exercising the right to self-determination in the North" (49). Indeed, his declaration that she had "given me up" (189) comes close to the more difficult admission that Bibb had, to some extent, inevitably given her up. In either formulation, I condemn neither Bibb nor Malinda for circumstances over which they had little or no control but rather demonstrate how Bibb draws on marital and patriarchal language to communi cate his exile from the rights and rites of enfranchised white men. The effects of this excommunication most likely lingered when in 1847 Bibb married Mary E. Miles, a black New England-born and reform-minded school teacher, roughly six years after his last attempt to rescue his family in 1841 (Heglar xi). How bittersweet it must have been for Bibb to finally participate legally in the institu tion of marriage while at the same time knowing that he once was and in some ways always would be the husband of a bondswoman, the father of a living slave child, and the father of a child he had to bury "without even a box to put it in" (118). Of course, it is impossible to know exactly how Bibb's remarriage impacted his understanding of his slave past; at the very least, we know that he never physically returned to the South. However, through his ex-slave narrative, Bibb made one last trek into the slaveholding South. As an act of historical recovery and personal reflection, The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave attempts to locate in writing what Bibb could not find in his lived life: a place for himself as a legitimate husband and father in the "social fiction" (Spillers 85) of the Father's name and law. Inasmuch as a "life" only gains coherence and becomes recogniz able as such through story (Bruner, "Life" 692-93), Bibb's illustrations of impris onment and Native American slavery express and sometimes consummate the 29 This content downloaded from 132.174.254.162 on Thu, 01 Nov 2018 01:29:50 UTC All use subject to
Image of page 8
Green unrequited relationships to the subject positions of courageous husband and pro tective father he had long been denied. Kentucky Prisoner, Devoted Husband Bibb experiences his first, formal incarceration in northeastern Kentucky's Covington jail, the same one-story building in which the fugitive slave Margaret Garner was allegedly detained after she killed her daughter during a failed escape attempt.7 Later, he is held for two days in Bedford jail (Bibb
Image of page 9
Image of page 10

You've reached the end of your free preview.

Want to read all 28 pages?

  • Spring '18
  • History, Inca, Slavery in the United States

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

Stuck? We have tutors online 24/7 who can help you get unstuck.
A+ icon
Ask Expert Tutors You can ask You can ask You can ask (will expire )
Answers in as fast as 15 minutes