Secondary Source Analysis Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Slavery, Family, Treatment, Literature, Race, Slave, War, Orleans

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/02/27

In Franklin and Schweninger’s “In Search of the Promised Land: A Slavery family in the South,” the Thomas Rapier family complicates the racial definition of black and white through slavery and freedom. There are circumstances in the story when the members of the family are exposed to harsh racial treatment as slaves while in other instances, they enjoy their freedom. The story portrays the northern states as non-slavery while the Southern states are slavery states because the members of the family receive harsh racial treatment. There is a clear connection between USA and the other countries in the American continent during the antebellum war era. The connection is that the enslavement impact that the black families receive, e.g. the Thomas Rapier family is similar to the harsh treatment the black families received in the other countries during the antebellum war era. The complication of the issue of slavery and harsh treatment of the black families is evident in the story because of the contrasting treatment that Sally Rapier gets when she visits Nashville. Unlike in Charlottesville, Sally receives no harsh racial treatment, showing the contrasting nature of slavery between the north and south of America.
In a life in bondage, there is the worrisome nature of life for the black families. The story begins when Sally’s two sons are transporting her from Charlottesville to Nashville. She is in search of a better life and the decision by her sons to transport her to Northville is symbolic of the black families trying to escape the wrath of slavery. “The slave Sally worried about what might become of her two boys riding with her,” according to Franklin and Schweninger (11). Nashville is contrasted with Charlottesville, with Nashville portrayed as the Promised Land because there is no harsh treatment against the black families. However, in Charlottesville, there is a clear definition of black and white. The blacks are the slaves while the whites are the owners of the cotton plantations where the black slaves gave their free labor while working under difficult conditions.
The issue of black slavery is complicated because of the different experiences of Sally’s sons. Their experiences show the kind of jobs that the black families could afford during the antebellum war period. Since the sons were in search of the Promised Land, they ended up in different places and encountered different experiences. John Rapier went to Florence, Alabama. In Alabama, John became a barber because it was the best kind of a job he could afford. John’s marriage was complicated on the issue of racism and slavery because one of his wives was a slave black woman while the other was a free black woman. However, Henry Thomas searched for freedom from slavery in the North and he settled in Buffalo where he became a Berber. Here, he lived a free life but he worked as a barber, the job that was considered to be one of the most prestigious for the black people. Thomas advanced to become a farmer in Canada and he settled in Mississippi. This shows that the North offered the free slaves greater opportunities for development although they reserved low-cadre jobs.
There is a difference, however, in the manner in which Franklin and Schweninger present slavery in America in relation to how slavery was during the antebellum war period in the other Americas. In this story, there are quasi-slaves, e.g. Sally, who are independent from their masters. They are allowed to hire themselves out and make additional earnings that their masters do not control. Sally, for example, hired herself out in Nashville and she was able to establish a laundry business. She earned a lot of respect from the white families in Nashville. Her sons too were free to travel in different destinations because there was a great level of independence from their masters. However, in The River of Dark Dreams, Walter Johnson presents a scenario where slaves receive harsh treatment from their masters, some of them even being thrown into river Mississippi. When the slaves were being transported on water, Kidd experienced their inhuman killings but he “luckily survived,” (Johnson 2). The author narrates, “Very few of the names of those who were killed could be ascertained but the general opinion was that the number of those who were killed could not be less than one-hundred,” (Johnson 2). They were slaved who were thrown into River Mississippi when they were being transported to New Orleans where there was the market for slaves. In Johnson’s story, the reader confronts a situation where slaves are used as commodities of trade in New Orleans. New Orleans is described as “The largest slave market in North America,” (Johnson 2).
There is a difference in way Johnson portrays the northern states and their roles in slavery, compared to the portrayal of Franklin and Schweninger. Franklin and Schweninger portray the northern states as the places where the black slave families, e.g. the Rapier family ran to as way of seeking freedom from slavery. Franklin and Schweninger portray the North as a non-slavery region while the south is a slavery region. The south was full of slavery because of cotton farming. In addition, the north had lower levels of racial treatment against the blacks. Sally rise into a respected businesswoman shows that the whites in the north were less racial and they respected successful blacks. The sons and grandsons of Sally also rose to success in the north. For example, James T. Rapier, Sally’s grandchild, rose to become the first Black representative of Alabama in the Congress. On the contrary, Johnson shows the role of the northern city of New Orleans in slavery as the city had the largest slave market (Johnson 2). Johnson also shows how the Southern Slavery was connected to politics and economy. According to Johnson (11) there was rivalry in Mississippi about the South representing the region of global economy as opposed to being the region of United States. There were political and economic interests as slaves were considered as “merchant capital” that “Seems to have no fixed residence anywhere but may wonder from place to place,” (Johnson 11).
In conclusion, slavery and the racial treatment of the black families is an issue of mixed perceptions. Franklin and Schweninger show how the Thomas Rapier family experienced quasi-slavery in the South. They were quasi slaves because they were free from the control of their masters. Sally travelled from the South to the North (Nashville) where she grew as a businesswoman. The politics of the South encouraged the Black families to remain slaves of the whites while in the North, they could advance to other occupations, e.g. business, barbers, and farmers. Johnson’s book shows how the slaves were treated harshly and even killed during the antebellum war period. However, the book shows that slavery was also in the North because New Orleans was the largest market for slaves.

Works Cited

Johnson, Walter. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge: Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013. Print.
Franklin, John H., & Schweninger, Loren. The Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

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