6 May 2014
A Battle for Survival Slavery is one of the most cruelest ideas that any human being has ever fathomed. Torn from their native land and shipped across hundreds of miles of ocean, people went days without food, surrounded by disease only to be forced into work on an unknown land. The entire idea of slavery seems very surreal but becomes very real, very quickly. By definition, slavery is a societal institution based on the ownership, dominance, and exploitation of one human by being another human’s property. The action of slavery is committed from the depths of the darkest parts of a human soul. Numerous accounts of slavery have been documented in literature and adapted onto screen examples such as seen in The Book of Negroes and Roots. Lawerence Hill's Book of Negroes a young African girl, Aminata Diallo, is forced into slavery and follows her journey to survival. To survive the brutality of slavery each individual must accept their new life, adapt to their new circumstances, and hold onto the hope of a better future. The severity that slaves faced should not be softened or sugar-coated in any way. When first captured, all slaves were taken aggressively and quickly, making the captives fearful that their “captors would beat us, boil us and eat us” (Hill 29). However most captures began with humiliating the slaves, stripping them naked and forcing them to walk in lines with bound limbs. In several cases, the slaves were forced to wear yokes like cattle. It is an accepted and verified historical fact that slavery is one of the most inhumane movements ever practiced by the human race. It is true that the physical and psychological abuse to which enslaved people were exposed represents the vilest aspects of the human capacity for evil. That fact is unavoidable. Roots, as a work of literature, is very necessary. At the very least, providing an image into a past that should not be forgotten and never be repeated. Aminata Diallo started her journey into slavery by witnessing the murder of both her mother and father as her village was raided. She under went emotional and physical abuse by her captors, providing vivid details the inhumane ways of which she was treated. She recalls how they assessed her physical state that “when they reached me in the line, the helper pinched my arms. He grabbed my cheeks roughly to force my mouth open. The orange-haired Baotou stopped him, and stepped forward. He signaled for me to open my mouth, and reached inside with a hairy index finger. I gagged. He ran his hand along my neck and shoulders, touched my back and made me move my elbows and my knees” (Hill 58). Treated as the lowliest of the low Aminata and her fellow slaves “walked all day. No water. No food. No breaks to pee. If you had to go, you had to do it and keep walking with the urine running down your sore legs and burning your broken skin” (Hill 116). Aminata had a strong spirit which helped her to make it through more than just the first phase of her slavery. As a fast learner, she was spared from many ill-fated situtations. Being strong-willed, however, often brought trouble upon her as well. Speaking back to a master was unacceptable, and usually brought on various forms of physical torture such as rape, flogging, or publically stripping. Many times newborns were sold to either punish the mothers or teach a lesson to their disobedient mothers. Aminata perserved to her freedom by the end of the book, surviving a tough life. Kunta Kinte's story is also a tragic one. He was chased, surrounded, and taken captive while unconscious. When he woke, he was on a slave ship headed for a bitter new future. Kunta was sold to a master who renamed him Toby, which he immediately rejected. His stubbornness and refusal to submit brought a lot of grief into his life. Kunta attempted to escape multiple times. His master finally gave an ultimatum, to submit, or be maimed to end the escape attempts.