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Central Library E443 .B66 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

The Punished Self describes enslavement in the American South during the eighteenth century as a systematic assault on Blacks' sense of self. Alex Bontemps focuses on slavery's effects on the slaves' framework of self-awareness and understanding. Whites wanted Blacks to act out the role "Negro" and Blacks faced a basic dilemma of identity: how to retain an individualized sense of self under the incredible pressure to be Negro? Bontemps addresses this dynamic in The Punished Self. The first part of The Punished Self reveals how patterns of objectification were reinforced by written and visual representations of enslavement. The second examines how captive Africans were forced to accept a new identity and the expectations and behavioral requirements it symbolized. Part 3 defines and illustrates the tensions inherent in slaves' being Negro in order to survive. Bontemps offers fresh interpretations of runaway slave ads and portraits. Such views of black people expressing themselves are missing entirely from other historical sources. This book's revelations include many such original examples of the survival of the individual in the face of enslavement.


Author Notes

Alex Bontemps is Assistant Professor of History at Dartmouth College.


Reviews 1

Choice Review

This theoretical study explores how Africans survived the dehumanizing institution of slavery in the British mainland colonies. Drawing heavily from secondary sources and on exemplary newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves, the book is divided into three parts. Part 1 explores the representation of Africans in contemporary visual and written records. Part 2 examines the brutal process by which "new Negroes" from Africa were transformed into what planters referred to as "sensible" slaves (those who were predictable and productive.) The last section analyzes (among other issues) slaves' efforts to articulate a sense of selfhood and identity while surviving in an institution designed to deny them both. Bontemps (history, Dartmouth) rightly emphasizes the role of violence (physical and psychological) employed by masters to force slaves to accept their status as objects. Slaves had to learn how to play the part of submissive worker while maintaining a sense of self-worth, a difficult task that often came at a heavy price. The questions raised by Bontemps are fundamental ones for scholars to consider, but the book is challenging. It assumes familiarity with specific contemporary texts concerning West Indian and mainland slavery. Analysis of the visual representation of slaves is frustrated by the absence of illustrations. Graduate and advanced undergraduates. M. Mulcahy Loyola College in Maryland


Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Part 1 Spotlights and Shadows
Introductionp. 3
1 The Missing Subjectp. 12
2 Shadow Castingp. 27
3 Ambiguityp. 48
4 The View of Strangersp. 67
Part 2 The Turning
5 "He is fast, he can't go."p. 85
6 Being Hailedp. 103
7 Impudencep. 120
Part 3 The Creole Dilemma
8 The Divided Selfp. 137
9 Being and Becoming Creolep. 154
Note on Sourcesp. 181
Notesp. 185
Indexp. 219

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