Slavery as a Major Theme in Robert A. Gross

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Slavery acts as a major theme in Robert A. Gross’s The Minutemen and Their World and Maya Jasanoff’s Liberty’s Exiles. As a result, racism is integrated in the societies of both works, furthering the point that racism is and will continue be a problem we face in our society today. Racism is instilled within the colonies, Britain and their territories, the Caribbean, and the world as a whole through many instances. The instances of slavery and oppression explained in The Minutemen and Their World and Liberty’s Exiles create a foundation for racism, dehumanizing and making black people out to be burdens, creating major obstacles for blacks- both free and enslaved – to practice religion, hold basic human rights, and exist without fear of assault or being wrongly sold into slavery.

Black people are dehumanized in numerous ways in both of these historical monographs. In chapter four of Liberty’s Exiles, black people were said to be “begging about the streets of London, and suffering all those evils, and inconveniences, consequent on idleness and poverty” (Jasanoff 128). This fueled what Jasanoff describes as racial hostility. This hostility instills a toxic ideology within London and beyond. The idea that black people are all poor beggars in need of saving creates a negative stigma that dehumanizes the group as a whole. Although people like Jonas Hanway came up with solutions to this problem (the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor), the stigma still exists that black people are the ones who need help. This creates a hierarchy in which white people are above black people because of their position to help. This hierarchy reappears in The Minutemen and Their World, when it is explained that the war was being fought mainly by “landless younger sons, by the permanent poor, and by blacks” (Gross 151). This, again, associates black people with poor people, placing them below wealthy land owning white people.

What is interesting is the association of landless younger sons with black and poor people. Land, as well as economic status and the color of your skin, were important factors to an individual’s place within a society during this time period. The huge population difference between black and white people is pointed out multiple times in Liberty’s Exiles. By the time of the Revolution, “only about seventeen hundred whites and twenty-three hundred blacks (about half of these free) lived on New Providence, Eleuthera, and Harbor Island” (Jasanoff 219). With black people outnumbering white people in so many instances, one might think it absurd that black people can’t do things like vote. Free blacks were excluded from the right to vote in New Brunswick and other colonies. It is evident that before the Constitution was written, colonists did not view North America as a government for the people, by the people especially when the specific group of voters at the time didn’t represent the entire population. Denying voting rights to people because of their skin color is just another factor that contributes to the dehumanizing of blacks during this time period.

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