The Allusions in “The Interesting Narrative”

The best way to begin this is to look at what Apess did in A Looking Glass for the White Man. Apess repeatedly took Gospel readings and used them as a cudgel to bludgeon Whites. The holier-than-thou attitude was successful because he repeatedly contrasted those passages with his accusations against the Whites. When we compare this approach to Equiano, we find a similar result.

Equiano’s allusions had three effects. The first is that it showed blacks could engage with the higher European literature. The second effect is that it shows the slaves could relate to these works on a far more personal, physical level than most Europeans. The example I use below is a sterling example of this. This follows into the final effect, which is its appeal to Enlightenment individualism. In the mind of a historical European, what better proof could there be of individualist values than this black guy quoting the literature of the time? It would show that an African was capable of transcending the limitations of his race and using his intellect to become a fellow individualist. This sort of thing thrills contemporary adherents of individualism today; I doubt yesterday was any exception.

On page 103, at the end of Volume 1 and Chapter 5, Equiano quotes a passage from Paradise Lost. For context of the poem, the devils are debating what should be the next course of action, given that they’ve been ejected from Heaven. For the context of Equiano’s book, he is describing the torture inflicted upon his fellow slaves, and asking if not the owners feared any sort of violent retribution.

———–[No peace is given]
To us enslav’d, but custody severe,
And stripes, and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? and what peace can we return,
But to our power hostility and hate,
Untam’d reluctance, and revenge though slow,
Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoyce
In doing what we most in suffering feel?

The correlation between these two accounts is obvious, and Equiano’s follow-up to this only goes to further solidify the effects listed above. Although he took it a little out of context (in the poem, the devil speaking decides to attack Earth and humanity instead of Heaven), the effect is still strong, in that constant repression results in restlessness – a message fit for the subject matter at hand.

But by changing your conduct, and treating your slaves as men, every cause of fear would be banished. They would be faithful, honest, intelligent and vigorous; and peace, prosperity, and happiness, would attend to you.

And that final word serves as a way to close off the story. Thus, all three effects listed above are fulfilled. It shows some slaves could read, it shows that the same slaves can relate to the work on a deeper level than the cozy Europeans, and it shows that the system of slavery was limiting blacks, preventing them from achieving their utmost individual potential.

Dave L

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Twitter Spat to Mary Rowlandson

@MaryRowlandson001 Upon reading your narrative, I must place a few things before you. It has been made known that you are a devout #Christian. Now, it must be clear to you that we are all but the same judged under God. If so, why then are the Indians given degradation through the course of the text? Is it right to hold and promote prejudices? I would ask you if you would like to be Algonquin, displaced by white men, and forced to welter out their days under starvation and fear, simply because they are not white. There are times when desperate people must make desperate choices, when they have been forced to by another force. Now let me ask you, Mrs. Rowlandson, did they not bring you into their wigwams and soothe your fears? King Phillip certainly outstretched a hand of kindness, which you later rebuked as sinful. Is it a disgrace to accept such a gift of #tobacco, when many a New Englander would consider this a gift? If it is such a disgrace, to accept kindness because of the color of the person gifting, then you must see this deep prejudice. Is there not an inconsistency in your principle? You see then this stark contrast, if you believe only the white man is made in the image of God, and all others must be treated with disdain. But, I must acknowledge that it was clever to use only Old Testament verse within your narrative. The cunning omission allows you to deceive the reader that we are all the same under God. Is this not the message our Father brought to us? I will ask one question more. Can you treat us the way in which God himself endured on the cross, as pariahs to be murdered, deprived of their lawful rights? And to the point, I look at the white skin, with all its crime, and see the crimes written upon it and see no difference between the Romans who lashed our Father. While we strive to conduct ourselves in a manner true to the Spirit’s principles, I must mention “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, the second of the commandments. Pray the Lord will wash the black heart of prejudice anew in #HolyBaptism, and there will be peace in my heart, and in the nation.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

Facebook After Hours: Apess Attempt to Educate

A Facebook Friend of William Apess posts on their  Facebook wall what they consider a highly intellectual post at 8:53pm on a Wednesday in response to today’s political climate. William Apess’ friend, (a colleague he had for a few classes at a pre-dominantly upper class university) Bob writes:

“May God instill the same strength and might in the young children locked in cages as He did in the brave Mary Rowlandson. Although their fights may be quite different, Mary Rowlandson is an outstanding image of what a survivor of captivity and maintainer of Grace looks like.
I pray they find peace in the same ways Mary was able to do so while still holding a respectable image of the Indian Peoples.”

William Apess sees the post nearly minutes after his distant Facebook friend debuts his words. He is unable to simply look past it and keep scrolling. For a moment he is triggered, and decides to “quickly” respond in a respectable yet firm manner, here is what he writes:

Comment by William Apess at 12:02am

“Hello dear “friend” of mine, if that is even what you could still call yourself after the disgusting, ridiculous comparison you have made of a colonizer to innocent indigenous children to this land. While it is not my job to educate you on the history of this country, as the good person I am, I find it in my heart to pose a few learning questions for you today, in hopes you will re-evaluate the nature of your post. Is context not the most important thing to consider when making such bold posts? When discussing the “fight” of Rowlandson, should you not also discuss the fight of countless indigenous peoples who died, suffered at the hands of starvation, and whose women were raped and abandoned all because of a Puritan religion in which justified colonizers acts in doing so?

I pray to God too. I pray that in an era of foreseeable revolution, privileged men on Facebook will look to other revolutionary figures to inspire change, rather than a woman who was most notable for not detailing indigenous people as drunks.

If you have any questions, please feel free to not message me as it is not my job to educate people on their failure to acknowledge the ways in which they continue to disrespect the history and lives of the indigenous people of this land.”

 

-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Better Than One Might Believe

To Lady Mary Rowlandson,

While many may be able to sympathize with you regarding the terrible loss of your family, I find your descriptions of the Indians to be continuously unwarranted and unbecoming of any good Christian throughout your narrative. I can see why it may be difficult for even a pious Christian such as yourself to initially forgive the Indians, but even as your story continues, even as you appear to grow more understanding of the Indians and their lifestyle, and even when they begin to show you kindness and welcome you into their homes, you still choose to think of them as little more than devils sent by God to tempt you with their lifestyle. I would kindly like to ask a well-educated Christian such as yourself where in the scriptures does our Lord say that the Indian is a devil and the lifestyle he lives is unfit for a Christian? If tomorrow every Indian chose to convert to Christianity and live a puritanical lifestyle such as yourself, do you believe that the conflicts would stop and a peaceful resolution would be found? I find such an occurrence difficult to believe, as even in your writing, you appear to group those Indians who have converted to our faith while dressing and acting like us into the same group as those who hold onto their old faith and reject everything about our lifestyle. I could hardly call one such as you a proper Christian when you are so quick to label any Indian, regardless of their faith, a devil.

Were the whites not at one time living a lifestyle arguably more degrading than the one they live now? Red skin does not prevent one from accepting the teachings of God, nor does red skin take away their right to own and protect their land. As one who has also lived among the Indians and personally seen the lifestyle they live, or in some cases, the lifestyle they have been forced into, I would ask you to reconsider your view of the Indians. Perhaps you chose to think of yourself and do truly believe that they are equal to us in the eyes of God, but there can be no changing the damage that your narrative can do to reinforcing the ideas of others that the Indians are devils and could never be equal to whites, not because of their faith, but because of their skin.

May God keep you safe.

Sincerely,

William Apess

-Ryan Bucher

May I speak to the Mrs. Rowlandson

To Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,

Now I must say, when I came upon your work I prayed that it would be to speak on behalf of them. The disdainful words I found describing them, appalled me. I acknowledge that you suffered from the loss of your child and from seeing much bloodshed, I however do not excuse your ignorance. They took you, yes, but your conditions were no different than those that have been imposed unto them, or are they not? What makes you better than the native women? Your skin color? The absence of color at all? Well let me tell you it does not. I will repeat what I wrote in “An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man” if you were disenfranchised from all your rights simply because you were white and for nothing else, how would you like that? I ventured to say that those who claimed the skin color to be such a barrier would be those you would first cry out “Injustice! Awful injustice!”(1081). I strayed not far from the truth, you sat there day after day not crying out against the injustice done to those with red skin, but the moment you were afflicted, the unfairness was intolerable. You Mrs. Rowlandson prayed to God about saving you, but never realized that in your captivity, you found salvation, only to throw it away with every single insult. He tried to save you from yourself, from your ignorance, and from your narrow minded upbringing, but it was all fruitless. God created each and every one as equal, and in his image, so why I’m disrespecting a fellow being, you could not see the assault being done to him, your savior? He created an array of colored people and only one of whites and how disgraceful would it be to have them be disrespected and treated as less, as something as superficial as skin. You ate from their plates, you sat with them, you shared lives with the Indians for 11 weeks and dishonored them with your narrative. But I know that you lied, you enjoyed their presence, you in reality know who they are underneath their skin color. You were able to only write something that was skin-deep and for that the Lord will not reward you, he will treat you accordingly to how you have treated the Indians, and anyone different from you.

Sincerely, William Apess

Sabrina Vazquez

An Email to the Author

Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Re: Her Narrative of Captivity and Restoration

Mrs. Rowlandson,

Upon viewing your narrative, I am much aggrieved to encounter many of the statements which are oft used to degrade my brethren, the Indians. Abounding from the start are those terms “savage” and “barbarian,” which despite their common usage, contain no truth-telling, and, most fortunately, fail to have any such fruition that their meanings infer in your further writing. Those of my brethren which you have described in this most unfortunate of circumstances, in which you came to know them, appear to be fleeing for their very lives, the likes of which we have seen far too many a time in Massachusetts and elsewhere throughout the Union. It is common practice it seems, that a white man, or woman such as yourself, shall come into contact with an Indian only to see nothing more than they have expected from the very beginning. Indeed, for a portion of your narrative, it is plain to see your own prejudice and lack of principle regarding my brethren; whereupon meeting the esteemed King Philip you begin to settle in among those you had named “heathens.” Such an unworthy term this is, for in your own mission to convert the Indians, you put them to shame with unfeeling insults; you pronounce them unworthy of the faith we share in God, and provide only more distance between yourself and them. Now you having seen the honest and generous nature of my brethren, the Indians, I implore you to do them no more disservice in the spreading of your narrative. For your capture and safe return, though harrowing they are, have shown you further the mercy and favor of Christ, our savior. A friend you may find in an Indian, and an honest man in one of color, but the white man has condemned him, has forced him to do to you as was done to him. He practices not to “love your neighbor as yourself,” for the gesture of the white man is to put him in shackles and put him until his bones may break and his spirit may fail. No longer should you condemn the Indians for their skin color, for it is of your own that they have become what you have seen. Repressed is their generosity, which you yourself have yet seen, and out the mania of King Philip’s War has come, though in no way to match that of the slaughter of my brethren. Peace, that the Lord has promised, is at hand; Mrs. Rowlandson you may yet redeem your people, all of our people, in their hatred and greed. No longer shall the Indians be exploited and discriminated and pushed down, for you can lift them up with your words, you can bring to the light of day to fruition in the equality of all people. For your narrative shows the world the home of Indians, daily becoming smaller and smaller, the struggle of the Indian people to find food, to fight for justice in the court of the white man. Make known the goodness of King Philip, of your master, and any such squaw who took pity upon you-for your reward shall be great through the grace of God.

Your most humble friend,

William Apess

-Meredith Leonardo

Tumblr: Where Real Talk Gets Posted

will_isnt_apressed

Call Out Post: Religion Doesn’t Equal Racism

So recently I came across a post by @Rowlandson_Girl_ and I have to say that I had to write this post to talk about it. We as a tumblr community are very susceptible to misinformation especially when it regards other people. Given how we want to be an inclusive space for POCs, people of color for those who don’t know the term, we actually really need to talk about her post on captivity. Her post portrays Native Americans in a really negative light that also seems to justify her racist perspective because we need to be clear that her story is racist. We can’t mince words because that is the truth. Now something that I really want to touch upon is her use of her faith because I too am religious but I really can’t come to terms with using religion as justification for racism. I’m about to get a little preachy, so please bear with me, but looking back on history we need to understand that Jesus himself was a POC. A quote from a English Lit class reading that sticks with me is this: “Now, if the Lord Jesus Christ, who is counted by all to be a Jew–and it is well known that the Jews are a colored people, especially those living in the East, where Christ was born–and if he should appear among us, would he not be shut out of doors by many, very quickly? And by those too who profess religion?” because it is incredibly honest. It’s from William Apess’s An Indian’s Looking-Glass For The White Man and it drives home the point I’m trying to make which is that religion cannot serve as a justification for racism. It goes against some of the very principles that you are meant to uphold and believe in as someone practicing Christianity. A core principle of Christianity is that anyone can be saved if they are willing to repent and ask for forgiveness. There’s no special requirement that you have to be white or colored in order to obtain forgiveness. So what @Rowlandson_Girl_ is saying is totally at odds with this core principle. She paints Native Americans as barbarians and making the jump from there to the idea that they are undeserving of practicing Christianity is not hard to make if you believe in that rhetoric.

So for anyone who read her post and immediately sympathized with her story I would like you to consider this perspective. Feel free to come at me with your opinions in a reblog or a comment, and I will respond because I feel like this is a frank discussion that needs to be had here, if it can’t be had on a national scale. There is always going to be a divide between POCs and non-POCs if we never have a discussion to try and come up with actual efforts to combat the imbalance and injustice people of color have had to and continue to deal with on a regular basis.

 

By Diana Lara

A Narrative of Hypocrisy

Dear Mary Rowlandson,

I just finished reading your narrative and I must say, I find you quite repulsive! You claim to be a Puritan woman who loves God, but your narrative drips with hypocrisy. Why, you must ask? Well, throughout your narrative, you consistently mention God and how good He is to you. Not only that, but you held the Bible as tightly as you could during your captivity. How is it that you held the Bible so dearly while holding a nasty and unfair opinion of the Indians?

Did your people not take the Indians’ land? Were your people not responsible for spreading diseases? Were you not aware that your people invaded the Indians’ hunting grounds, therefore taking food away from them? Mrs. Rowlandson, you act as if your people are innocent . One cannot be a follower or child of God if he carries hatred in his heart. You must have missed reading this verse in the Bible that says, “And the second is like, namely this. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Mark 12:31).

I must say one thing, though, Mrs. Rowlandson. You were beginning to form a friendship with your captors. You began eating their food, making trades with them, and you even cooked your master a meal! I pity you, Mrs. Rowlandson. Instead of admitting that you formed a friendship and understanding with the Indians, you were afraid of being outed by your community. The so called “squaws” and “heathens” became your friends. Why does it bother you that you began seeing your captors as real people rather than savages? It is because of your inability to show your true emotions, that is why. You are embarrassed to admit your true feelings because of your fear to be criticized. Instead of taking the chance to teach your people to love one’s neighbors like the Bible you all claim to love teaches, you painted an ugly portrait of yourself through your narrative.

Best,

William Apess

Charise Cating

Tea For Two

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Mary Rowlandson nervously glanced at the clock on the wall, drumming her perfectly manicured nails against the mahogany surface of the table. He was already twelve minutes late, and she was worried he’d never arrive.

Finally, the tea shop’s door swung open to reveal a stressed-looking William Apess, his usually neat hair mussed. He huffed slightly before scanning his eyes around the room, his gaze quickly landing on Mary. He immediately made his way to her, a frustrated look on his face.

Mary smiled nervously. “Good morning, Mr.Apess. I hope you bring good news?” In his hand, he held the mass of papers that made up Mary’s newest novel, one that she had titled as The Narrative of the Captivity. 

“Good news? No, not good news at all; in fact, I’m disappointed.” He threw the manuscript onto the table, then plopped down on the chair across from her. “I mean, what were you thinking, Mary? Do you even realize what your so-called book is portraying?”

Mary frowned. “Yes, it’s about the brave journey of a Christian woman who has suffered greatly at the hands of savages, who-”

William slammed his palm down on the table, earning a few glares from the other customers around them. “Do you realize how racist you sound? ‘Savages’? I didn’t even take this to the publisher. After I read it myself, how could I? Do you even realize that these ‘savages’ you claim are also people? Just because they have different beliefs than you doesn’t make them devils, for God’s sake!”

“But William, this is more tha just a story; this really happened to me! People need to know that-”

“Mary, shut up and listen to me, please. Think of all of the people you’ve pointed your fingers at, how they’d react to something like this. You’re right, there are bad people in the world, but the people who wrote about? That’s not them.” He sighed, then shoved himself up from the chair that he had taken a seat in only moments before, his frown deeper than before and his eyebrows pulled down. “Mary, I’m honestly scared for you. One day, you’re going to get yourself killed with this way of thinking. Please, I’m begging you, reevaluate your way of thinking before it’s too late for even me to save you.”

– Jody Omlin

Blinded with Ignorance – A letter to Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Samantha Shapiro

This “letter” is more of a reimagining of a direct response to Mary Rowlandson given what I believe to be Apess’s own perspective when writing his “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man,” using the same ideals to critique her almost martyr-like narrative.

Dear Mrs. Rowlandson,

After reading your narrative on , my thoughts were strangely empathetic yet harsh, understanding but critical. Your horrible situation, one of which involving Indians killing “women and children,” and later taking you hostage, letting you burn under the “scorching rays” of a blistering sun, regarding you “under the lash with hunger and fatigue.” I find myself horrified, reminded of actions done unto themselves: has degradation “not been heaped long enough upon the Indians?”

In this emotional, driven narrative, does it not escape you the situation that you not only have become complicit to, but have experienced firsthand? “And if so, can there not be a compromise; is it right to hold and promote prejudices? If not, why not put them all away? I mean here amongst those who are civilized. It may be that many are ignorant of the situation of many of my brethren…

Through your recounting, I am reminded, thus, of the many Indians before, their own trials and tribulations seen as an oversight by you, who, like the white men around you, “care not whether the Indians live or die; they are much imposed upon by their neighbors who have no principle.” As you had recounted, you took notice of the “strange providence of God in preserving the heathen,” noting the “many hundreds, old and young, some sick, and some lame; many had papooses at their backs,” but failing to see this forced degradation – your own home a candle to the towns and millions forced to “set their wigwams on fire” to escape the English army hunting them down.

This shows signs of your own ignorant perspective, one of which involving the superiority of the white man, and the rights and privileges inherent to those who are white.

I know that many [whites] say that they are willing, perhaps the majority of the people, that we should enjoy our rights and privileges as they do…I would ask you if you would like to be disenfranchised from all your rights, merely because your skin is white, and for no other crime? I’ll venture to say, these very characters who hold the skin to be such a barrier in the way, would be the first to cry out, injustice! awful injustice!

It appears as though you, once disenfranchised yourself, choose to be blind to the plight of your so-called “captors,” ones you see, but do not truly see, as ones who “[mourn] (with their black faces) for their own losses, yet triumphed and rejoiced in their inhumane, and many times devilish cruelty to the English.” This only shows the inherent prejudice behind your mask of understanding, one marred with ignorance. Do you look upon these actions of these so-called devils without knowing the crimes of the English terrorizing them?

I see us both as having differing beliefs in God, one to me: “the maker and preserver both of the white man and the Indian, whose abilities are the same,” and all of us judged under God, who judges righteousness over the “outward appearance.” On a foundational basis, you have no belief that these Indians around you, albeit captors, would murder you sooner than keep you safe. This preconceived notion, you yourself alone in the world, “no Christian soul near,” and somehow surviving the danger of these “hellish heathens,” marks a deep belief, one that judgement should be passed upon those in a manner as concrete as the very depth of their skin. In seeing more of your perspective, your closing ideals, I understand and sympathize, yet remain critically opposed to your own, perhaps repressed, ideals on white superiority.

  • William Apess