film: 12 Years a Slave. Director: Steve McQueen. Perf. Chiwetel Ejiofor,
Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, 2013.
film: Amistad. Director: Steven
Spielberg. Perf. Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, Morgan Freeman, DreamWorks
Autobiographer from west Africa that became a slave at a young age
First published African American female poet
film that shows a different view of the harsh reality of enslavement in America
is the movie “Amistad”. Amistad, is a film that is about a revolt of enslaved
Africans that were kidnapped from Africa and sold into the Spanish slave trade.
The rebellion took place on a slave ship from Cuba known as “La Amistad” in
1839. 53 Africans
In “12 years a Slave”, Master Epps is shown raping his slave
Patsey outside of her cabin. Slave
owners would often rape and whip their female slaves. Slave owners often raped
their slaves and there were chances that they may end up pregnant. This creates
an increase in population due to the reproduction of Mulatto’s. Some slave
owners had strong feelings for their female slaves and they would become very
possessive over them. Which is why Master Epps whips Patsey for going missing
and disobeying him.
Phillis Wheatley4, was a
free black woman that was captured at a young age like Venture Smith and sold
into slavery. Phillis was brought over on a slave ship to Boston and purchased
by the Wheatley’s which is where she gets her name from. The Wheatley’s
educates Phillis by teaching her how to read and write. Some slave owners
educated their slaves for tasks like errand’s that involved a little more
education. Phillis becomes one of the first well-known African American female
poet (African American History 203, October 17 Class Lecture). During this
time, it was unusual for a slave to know how to read and write as well as being
taught by their owners. This was very unusual also because, woman at this time
were only focused on doing house work like cooking, cleaning, and taking care
of the children.
scene in “12 years a slave” that speaks volumes is when a slave named “Clemens”
tells Solomon, “Tell no one who you really are and tell no one that you can
read and write. Unless you want to be a dead nigger”. Majority of the slaves at
this time didn’t know how to read or write. Slaves didn’t know how to read or
write because it was forbidden for them to know how. Slave owners wanted to
keep their slaves “dumb” and uneducated. Slave owners feared that slaves would
“outsmart” them and try to communicate amongst each other to start a rebellion
if they knew how to read and write.
In one of the scenes of “12 years a slave”, Solomon tells a
slave trader named “Burch” that he is actually a free man from New York and not
a slave. Burch, in a confident voice, tells Solomon that “Yah no free man. And
yah ain’t from Saratoga. Yah from Georgia. Yah nuthin’ but a Georgia runaway.
Yah a runaway nigger from Georgia”. The quote is an example of how slave
holders try to take away the identity of enslaved African Americans by telling
them where they are from. Another way that slave holders tried to take away black’s
identity is by giving them new names instead of their original names. In the
movie, Freeman (a slave trader) calls out the name “Platt” and is expecting
Solomon to conform that, that is his new name.
In the movie “12 years a slave” Solomon was a free African
American man that had his own property and a family. Solomon was kidnapped and
sold into slavery in Washington D.C illegally by two Caucasian men named Brown
and Hamilton. Many free African Americans during this time have been kidnapped
and enslaved by whites. Venture smith3, was
a free black, that was born in Africa and captured under the age of 10 and sold
into slavery. Venture Smith is a prime
example of someone that was born free and enslaved at a young age.
film “12 years a slave” is an autobiography written by Solomon Northup, A free
African American man that was born in New York in 1808. During this period,
there were slaves, free slaves, and African Americans that were born free.
Although there was a significant number of slaves living in the south, there
was a small percentage of African Americans that had their freedom and built
their own free black communities. Even though there were free blacks, they still
were not granted the same rights as free whites. Laws known as “slave codes”
restricted slaves and free blacks from behaving a certain way in fear of
rebellions and escaping.
The film “12 years a slave”1 and the film “Amistad”2 are two films that give a broad overview of
how slavery operated back then. These two films are based upon true stories
that involves several events of the harsh reality of enslavement. Slavery
in the Americas began in 1619 and ended in 1865.The abolishment of slavery in the
United States was due to the 13th amendment which came into effect after
the civil war in 1865. This essay will critique each film based on the oppression
of African Americans, historical facts, and the study of African American
history to 1865.
America was a slave society based upon power, violence, and Racism.
Slavery played a major role in the country’s economy. The vast majority of slaves were mistreated by
their masters. Slaves would often have to work, eat, and sleep in poor
conditions. Although there was an abundance of enslaved African Americans,
there was also a small portion of free blacks in this era. The kidnapping of free
blacks and enslaving them illegally was at an all-time high.
Reality of Slavery