Enslaved America Essay

Submitted By Allykatt8464
Words: 1058
Pages: 5

Kathryn Allen
World Literature 205
March 31, 2014

Enslaved America There’s no question that “12 Years a Slave” remains an art film, especially as the provocative director forces audiences to confront concepts and scenes that could conceivably transform their worldview. I thought “Django Unchained” opened the door to empowerment, and dominace then “12 Years a Slave” goes barreling through it, tackling its subject with utmost seriousness. The film opens in a world where slavery is a fact of life and Solomon has no recourse to challenge his captivity. Duped and drugged on a bogus job interview, he awakens in shackles and is beaten ferociously when he dares to assert his status as a free man. Some may wonder why he doesn’t continue to protest, forgetting that the word of a black man in pre Civil War America had almost no legal currency, especially if said individual was unable to produce his free papers. “The Souls of Black Folk” Du Bois claims that the most significant event in African American history has been the rise of the educator, Booker T. Washington, in to the role of spokesman for the race. Du Bois argues that Washington's approach to race relations is counterproductive to the long term progress of the race. Washington's acceptance of segregation and his emphasis on material progress represent an "old attitude of adjustment and submission." Du Bois feels. Du Bois also asserts that this policy has damaged African Americans by contributing to the loss of the vote, the loss of civil status, and the loss of aid for institutions of higher education. Du Bois insists that the right to vote, civic equality, and the education of youth according to ability are essential for African American progress. However, assuming Solomon wants to survive, a fellow hostage advises, he must do and say as little as possible, in addition to hiding his ability to read and write. “I don’t want to survive,” Solomon bellows. “I want to live!” Separated from his wife and children, he faces a situation where the entire society is stacked against him. While not every white person in the film is evil, they willingly participate in a system that demeans their fellow man, and the injustice is far too great simply to forget and move on; as Hollywood and society would evidently prefer. Like in such cases as Trayvon Martin. Alarmingly, the few films of the past century to engage directly with the institution of slavery have nearly all come from the exploitation sphere, fetishizing aspects of violence and sexual abuse. An early scene in which slave trader Theophilus Freeman parades naked slaves for the benefit of prospective buyers lingers on the nudity and degradation of such a market. There’s little ambiguity in these unflattering depictions, which i feel is what Du Bois also meant in “The Souls of Black Folk” we as people can not forget to have ambition. To simplify Solomons memoir, the character was stripped of even his identity as he is shifted en route to market, changing hands just three times over the course of the film. Two of those owners are as decent as the circumstances permit, even going so far as to encourage the fiddle playing with which he previously earned his living in upstate New York. The third, Edwin Epps becomes the bane of Solomon’s existence a man who justifies his actions according to scripture and prides himself in “breaking” disobedient slaves. On Epps’ plantation, one is expected to pick 200 pounds of cotton each day and is savagely beaten every time he falls short. Du Bois returns to an examination of rural African American life with a presentation of Dougherty County, Georgia as representative of life in the southern Black Belt. He presents the history and current conditions of the county. Cotton is still the life-blood of the Black Belt economy, and few African Americans are enjoying any economic success. Du Bois describes the legal system and tenant farming system as only slightly removed from slavery. He also examines