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Academic Paper from the year 2015 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1.0, University of Constance, language: English, abstract: "You have seen a man made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man." (Douglass, Jacobs, 2004) The experiences of Frederick Douglass, one of the former slaves who escaped the horrors of slavery, became one of the most widely read slave narratives and the most influential African- American text of the antebellum era. Authors like Douglass wanted not only to expose the inhumanity of the slave system, but they also gave incontestable evidence to the humanity of the African American. The question that arises is, how representative Douglass s narrative is - does he speak of "man" as a representative for people in general, or is he specifically speaking for the male slave? For the last years scholars have begun to pay more attention to issues of gender in their study of slavery and claim that female slaves faced additional burdens and even more challenges than some of the male slaves. Based on the first female slave narrative, Harriet Jacobs s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, this paper will investigate how gender influences the way in which bondage can be experienced differently: what specific forms of oppression do women face in slavery, or what forms of oppression do they encounter to a larger extent than men? Claiming that this gender specific oppression results in gender specific forms of resistance, I will furthermore focus on the ways of how female slaves made a stand against this oppression. Again, Jacobs s narrative will be the basis for this investigation. Incidents is the first-person account of Jacobs s pseudonymous narrator "Linda Brent" and presents an accurate, although selective, story of her life. This paper will not discuss the relationship between Jacobs and her narrator Brent, but will consider Brent s account as autobiographical for Jacobs. For over a century, the authenticity of Jacobs s experiences was questioned until Jean Fagan Yellin s ground breaking work proved her authorship. The basis for the following investigation will be a brief introduction of the various ways of approaching Incidents. The second part of the paper will then consider two gender specific forms of oppression: patriarchal sexual oppression, and the deprival of identity by neglecting female slaves to live out the "virtues of womanhood". With Incidents, Jacobs breaks taboos in order to present Brent s sexual history in slavery and to emphasize the power of self-determination, motherhood and family relationships as powerful weapons of resistance.
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