Imagined Communities

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Nation:
"an imagined political community imagined
as both inherently limited and sovereign"
(Benedict Anderson, Imagined
Communities)
From the Declaration of
Independence, 1776:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that
all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
th
18
century: Enlightenment, but...
also cradle of modern racism:
1) Enlightenment (radical attempt to define man's
place in nature; preoccupation with a rational
universe)
2) Christian Pietism (emphasis upon instincts,
intuition, emotional life of the community)
End 18th century: phrenology (reading the skull)
physiognomy (reading the face)
From Samuel Wells, How to Read Character: A New
Illustrated Hand-book of Phrenology and Physiognomy,
1891
Eugenicists sometimes defined a race according to general
physical appearance, but just as often they relied on language
or region of origin. Definitions of race were sometimes
accompanied by highly detailed measurements of body parts
(fig.: Cross sections of Hairs, 1932)
> The Bible (the curse of Ham)
> Joseph Arthur de Gobineau,
Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines (18531855)
RACE > RACISM
RACISM > (institutional forms) Slavery,
Imperialism, Colonialism
numbers in this map would be different in light of more recent statistics, but the
map still gives a graphic idea of the relative intensity of the Atlantic slave trade to
New World areas through time
From J. W. Buel, Heroes of the Dark Continent (New York, 1890 - captioned
"victims of Portuguese slave hunters" (actually the slavers are Africans)
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(African American time-line, from the Norton
Anthology of African American Lit.)
1492 Pedro Alonzo Nino, traditionally
considered the first of many New World
explorers of African descent, sails with
Christopher Columbus
1526: First African slaves brought to what is
now the United States by the Spanish
1619: 20 Africans brought to Jamestown,
Virginia, on Dutch ship and sold as indentured
servants
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1641: Massachusetts becomes the first colony
to legally recognize slavery
1645: First American slave ships sail, from
Boston; triangular trade route brings African
slaves to West Indies in exchange of sugar,
tobacco and wine
1646: John Wham and his wife are freed,
becoming first recorded free blacks in New
England
"Stowage of the British Slave Ship
'Brookes' under the Regulated
Slave Trade, Act of 1788"; it
shows each deck and crosssections of decks and "tight
packing" of captives. One of the
most famous images of the
transatlantic slave trade. After
the 1788 Regulation Act, the
Brookes (also spelled Brooks)
was allowed to carry 454 slaves,
the approximate number shown
in this illustration. However, in
four earlier voyages (1781-86),
she carried from 609 to 740
slaves
From The Interesting Narrative of the Life of
Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African
(1789)
“The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast, was the sea,
and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo.
These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror,
when I was carried on board. I was immediately handled, and tossed up to
see if I were sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had
gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me.
Their complexions, too, differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the
language they spoke, (which was very different from any I had ever heard)
united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the horrors of my views
and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I
would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with
that of the meanest slave in my own country.
When I looked round the ship too, and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and
a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of
their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of
my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on
the deck and fainted.”
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Strangely enough “the soil of slavery” had
turned out to be a fertile ground for the creation
of a new literature
Black slaves in England and the U.S. created a
genre of literature (the ex-slave narrative) that
testified against their captors and bore witness
to the urge to be free and literate: - European
dream of reason + American dream of civic
liberty
1787: Constitution ratified, classifying one slave
as three-fifths of one person for congressional
apportionment – Congress passes Northwest
Ordinance, banning slavery in Northwest
Territories and all land north of the Ohio river
From the Slave Heritage Resource Center. 1857 map.
(The Dark green states are the free states. The light green are the free
"Territories", which were not yet states. The Red States were Slave Importing
States, and the Pink States Were Slave States that Exported Slaves.)
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Briton Hammon (first half 1700 - ?)
Jupiter Hammon (1711 - 1806)
Lucy Terry (?1730 – 1821)
Phyllis Wheatley (?1753 - 1784)
John Marrant (1755 - 1791)
Olaudah Equiano (1745 – 1797)
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“the slave found himself without a system of
written language...he first had to seize the
word. His being had to erupt from
nothingness” (H. Baker Jr.)
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