Monday, July 28, 2008

a slave's biography

Amongst the many books available now for free download on the net are the harrowing biographies/ autobiographies of slaves published during the 19th Century. The following is from the autobiography of a woman:

"children were exhibited on a table, that they might be seen by the company, which was very large. There could not have been a finer subject for an able painter than this unhappy group. The tears, the anxiety, the anguish of the mother, while she met the gaze of the multitude, eyed the different countenances of the bidders, or cast a heart-rending look upon the children; and the simplicity and touching sorrow of the young ones, while they clung to their distracted parent, wiping their eyes, and half concealing their faces,--contrasted with the marked insensibility and jocular countenances of the spectators and purchasers,--furnished a striking commentary on the miseries of slavery, and its debasing effects upon the hearts of its abettors. While the woman was in this distressed situation she was asked, 'Can you feed sheep?' Her reply was so indistinct that it escaped me; but it was probably in the negative, for her purchaser rejoined, in a loud and harsh voice, 'Then I will teach you with the sjamboc,'."

The appearance of an Afrikaans word ('sjamboc') in this narrative is striking (pun not intended); the complete book is available from manybooks.net: 'The History of Mary Prince by Mary Prince'.
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