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Lecture and Seminar: Prof. Dr. Juergen Martschukat

'I was made to feel […] that I must pass through life in a dependent and suffering condition': Slavery, Fatherhood and the Shaping of the Self, 1830-1860


Course description:

Enslaved African-American men and women were denied the acceptance as liberal selves in American society. The circumstances of their enslaved existence offered them little or no opportunities to visibly express their capability for self-control and self-guidance which were deemed crucial in America for gaining acknowledgement as potential citizens and subjects.

Since the 1830s, the abolitionist movement and discourse increasingly merged the issues of African-American liberation, the end of slavery, and the acknowledgement of African-Americans as subjects. Here, the ‘slave narratives’ had a most considerable impact and were a highly influential literary genre. Being both real and imagined, the slave narratives were presented as autobiographical accounts of the thoughts and actions of escaped slaves and sought to show that slaves were capable of acting as liberal selves and thus deserved freedom and acknowledgement. This paper will illustrate the significance of slave narratives by focusing on the story of Tom Jones (first published 1854) as a case study. It will demonstrate the seemingly authentic (self-)portrayal of Jones as a caring and rational father matched with established white, middle class, Northern expectations addressed to male selves in America, which focused in particular on the individual's self-guidance and his ability for free labor and for being the provider of his family.


Mandatory reading:

Jones, Thomas H., The Experience of Rev. Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years. Written by a Friend, as Related to Him by Brother Jones. New Bedford: E. Anthony &Sons, 1885 (erste Aufl. 1854), elektronische Ausgabe in Documenting the American South.


Recommended readings:

  • Andrews, William L. (Hg.), North Carolina Slave Narratives. The Lives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, & Thomas H. Jones, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Berlin, Ira, Generations of Captivity. A History of African-American Slaves, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2003.
  • Brown, Vincent, »Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery«, American Historical Review, Jg. 114, H. 3 (2009), S. 1231–1249.
  • Dunaway, Wilma A., The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, New York: Cambridge UP, 2003.
  • Finzsch, Norbert, Von Benin nach Baltimore. Die Geschichte der African Americans, Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999.
  • Gutman, Herbert G., The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925, New York: Pantheon Books, 1976.
  • hooks, bell, »Plantation Patriarchy«, in: bell hooks, We Real Cool. Black Men and Masculinity, New York: Routledge, 2004, S. 1–14.
  • Jones, Jacqueline, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow. Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (1985), New York: BasicBooks, 2010.
  • Kolchin, Peter, American Slavery, 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.
  • Mills, Charles W., The Racial Contract, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1997.
  • Patterson, Orlando, Slavery and Social Death. A Comparative Study, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1982.
  • Stevenson, Brenda E., Life in Black and White. Family and Community in the Slave South, New York: Oxford UP, 1996.
  • Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, »The Mask of Obedience. Male Slave Psychology in the Old South«, American Historical Review, Jg. 93, H. 5 (1988), S. 1228–1252.