Monthly Archives: January 2009

Assignment for 1/30

Remember that by Friday you’ll be expected to have read through page 66 of Douglass’s narrative. As you read you might consider the significance of literacy in this text– what it means to Frederick Douglass and how he uses his own burgeoning facility with language to change his situation. What is at issue here isn’t simply some lazy affirmation of education as an indispensable part of individual development, but, frankly, life and death. You might also consider what it means to be a slave. As one possible answer to that question consider the words of George Jackson:

“Slavery is an economic condition. The classical chattel and today’s neoslavery must be defined in terms of economics. The chattel is property, one man exercising the property rights of his established economic order, the other man as that property. The owner can move that property or hold it in one square yard of the earth’s surface; he can let it breed other slaves, or make it breed other slaves; he can sell it, beat it, work it, maim it, fuck it, kill it. But if he wants to keep it and enjoy all of the benefits that property of this kind can render, he must feed it sometimes, he must clothe it agains the elements, he must provide a modicum of shelter. Chattel slavery is an economic condtion which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination.”

Letter to Fay Stender  4/17/70