Stereotypes and Suffering

In The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, the author engages with Image #2’s anti-slavery sentiments by showing his own intelligence and religiosity as proof of the human nature of slaves. Image #2 is satirizing the ways in which those people who are pro-slavery disregard and misinterpret both the literature written on the subject of anti-slavery and the obvious fact that slavery is abuse of the worst kind on other human beings. Engaging with the stereotypes of the animalistic African slave and the hard-working British citizen, the cartoon presents an image of a downtrodden English family whose head feels like a beast having to push a plow all day(which was a common way of viewing the slaves, as beasts) and a slave family whose words are lacking finesse but who appear jovial, as do the slaves dancing in the background. The iterations of these families in the picture is to show that slaves, if given the chance of freedom, have the ability to build a happy family and be successful, more so than their owners who despair at the prospect of having to work for themselves. Equiano goes further than this cartoon by actively challenging the stereotype of the unlettered African, instead of only depicting that it exists as Image #2 does. On page 135, Equiano describes an instance in Savannah in which he was visiting a friend with a light on past nine o’clock and the patrol enters, shares drinks with them, then arrests the narrator. This story shows the abuse of African people by the law enforcers when it state that “these ruffians” beat two others they had in custody, and intended to beat Equiano, but he was saved by one who was more humane than the rest. This memory also shows how easy it was for white men with power to abuse the hospitality of Equiano and his friend, then turn against them immediately afterwards. Such a law as one that targets blacks for simply having a light on at night goes along with what the cartoon’s main speaker is saying about slaves knowing nothing of the trifling things of life. They are not permitted to relax for a moment with all of the laws pinned against them in these places. Not only does this memory present the ways in which discrimination of free and slave African takes place, it shows how ridiculous such actions are. Equiano and his companion did nothing to disrupt anyone else, and they even shared drinks and limes with the patrol, but in return they were threatened and Equiano taken away. In the same way, Image #2 shows the purest of familial relationships in the African family, but that is still degraded by the stereotype of unintelligent language.

-Meredith Leonardo


One thought on “Stereotypes and Suffering

  1. The focus of your post is about image two and how is relays the effect of racism on slaves. This effect is demonstrated in Equiano’s narrative, during the bilateral effect of the law that is intented to protect but ultimately hurts people of color. In addition to the points you have made you could also consider how this encounter would of played out if Equiano was in a segregated area for blacks only.


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