Harriet Beecher Stowe's work is a harrowing piece that argumentatively and prosaically contradicts the social mores and justifications put in place by those who were pro slavery during the 1800s. Uncle Tom serves as Stowe's archetype and like the author, he is unfailingly religious and it is his Christian belief in God that serves as his beacon to overcome the ills and horrors from the daily life of slavery.
In Gone With the Wind, written about 80 years later, there is the continuing line that outsiders to Southern culture did not know nor understand the familial relations between slaves and their masters. In reality, house slaves at least could become family and some were buried alongside their owners. What Stowe points out, is that yes, they may be family, but what happens when the master falls into debt? Will a common law husband not sell his wife and children if it suits his financial needs? What of the families torn apart in the process?
Uncle Tom's story begins in Kentucky, where he serves on a plantation for a reasonably kind master, Mr. Shelby and his wife. Though when Mr. Shelby falls behind on a payment of a mortgage; the family's best house slaves are to be sold. Eliza, the mistress's favorite, has a handsome son named Harry and when Eliza overhears what is to happen to her and her son, she runs away with Harry, crossing the icy winter Ohio river with him in her arms, to be joined by her husband and the family is aided by Quakers on their journey to Canada. Eliza's story is one of many epitomizing the lengths women would go through not to be separated from their children.
Tom hears the news of the master's debt and his plans to solve it, but still he refuses to go, "No, no... - it's her right! I wouldn't be the one to say no - 'tan't in natur for her to stay; but you heard what she said! If I must be sold, or all the people on the place, and everything to go to rack, why let me be sold."
Tom's overly saintlike loyalty may come from his elderly age as he might simply have been too old to risk the dangers of flight across the country, during the winter, to the North. With Eliza and her family escaped Tom is sold to the St. Clare family of New Orleans. The slaves seem to fear nothing more than being sold South, but with the St. Clare family he finds a reasonable home. The head of the family, withholds a philosophical cynicism, and he views slavery as a cultural more, pervading the country with its essence that creates a battle too much for one man to fight; so he owns slaves but promises to free Tom so he may rejoin his family in Kentucky.
Marie, St. Clare's wife, seems to have an ailment every day, though none can be proven to actually exist, and their daughter Evangeline, is unusually sweet and as one of her last wishes as she is dying from tuberculosis, requests of her father that the slaves be set free. Eva's notions toward slaves cause her to be considered a most peculiar child. Marie says, "Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father's little negroes - it never did me any harm. But Eva somehow seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her. It's a strange thing about the child...Now, there's no way with servants, but to put them down and to keep them down. It was always natural to me, from a child, Eva is enough to spoil a house-full."
When Eva becomes ill, it is Marie, serving as proof that reproducing does not necessarily make a person a mother, who insists herself to be really ill as opposed to her daughter who is merely exhibiting some highly positive signs of consumption. When Eva passes away, her mother's fits increase and doctors are called in a rush and in the process some servants really do come to believe that it is Marie who is in a state of mourning. Uncle Tom is the one to notice St. Clare, who silently remains in Eva's room, is the true mourner of the one pure creature in his life to be taken from him.
St. Clare keeps his word to his daughter, but while making arrangements to free Tom, he is stabbed trying to break up a knife fight at a cafe and dies. Marie, then over-rides all her husband's stances toward slavery and Tom is sold to a low down man; by the name of Legree, who has long, dirty fingernails and a derogatory manner to all who know him. Here Tom meets Cassy, a beautiful light skinned mistress, with a godless view of the world. Cassy's children were sold from her by her husband, and when she has a new master, and a child by him, she gives her newborn son laudanum as she sings him into a permanent sleep.
When Cassy and the younger, Emmeline, both mistresses of Legree run away together, Tom is flogged to death for not disclosing where they went. So, Tom never sees the freedom other persons in the story eventually find. Yet, he held a faith within himself to the last.
By Sarah Bahl
Dorothy Allison's novel brings to light the details and realities of domestic violence. Bone, is the protagonist, "I've been called Bone all my life, but my name's Ruth Anne," and her longstanding nickname was bequeathed upon her while she was a baby, as when her mother brought her home from the hospital, her Uncle Earl said she was no bigger than a knucklebone and Deedee, her cousin, pulled back the blanket to see, "the bone."
Bone has a natural appreciation for God's given beauty, "Greenville, South Carolina, in 1955 was the most beautiful place in the world. Black walnut trees dropped their green-black fuzzy bulbs on Aunt Ruth's matted lawn, past where their knotty roots rose up out of the ground like the elbows and knees of dirty children suntanned dark and covered with scars. Weeping willows marched across the yard..."
Bone's mother was a hard working, non-drinking 15 year old girl who was devastated when her baby's father was never named, "So Granny gave one and Ruth gave another, the clerk got mad, and there I was - certified a bastard by the State of South Carolina." Her mother, Anne, pulls herself up out of bed, just eight days after giving birth and returns to work as a waitress. At the age of 16 Anne takes her baby and returns to the courthouse; she says her daughter's birth certificate is torn across the bottom and she needs another one. The clerk hands her a paper, with "Illegitimate," stamped across the bottom and tells her, "the facts have been established," while twittering women stare at her and one of them mouths, "some people."
Anne walks out of that courtroom with her baby held so tight she begins to wail. Anne comes back the next year to the immense enjoyment of the darkly perverse court clerk, to no avail. She even hires a lawyer who tells her there is nothing he can do, "Bastard," Anne hisses at the lawyer.
Lyle Parsons, a gentle, soft spoken, prettily handsome boy, takes Anne's hand and she quits work at his insistence, and is soon pregnant with Reese. Lyle dies, while on the route of one of his work shifts. It was one of those days when the sun shines as the rain pours down, and Lyle's truck spills over, with him falling out and onto the pavement with no obvious injuries. It was hard to believe he was dead, except the back of his head was crushed into the gravel.
Anne howls like a dog, when she sees the sheriff's car pull up. She knew already. Anne, is at 19, probably about the prettiest widow in South Carolina. Both her girls are at the funeral, Reese is still just a baby; and to support them Anne begins working the mills but her health can't take all the labor and the dust, so she goes to waitressing at The White Horse Cafe, where all the men, from truckers to judges like her. "Mama smiled, joked, slapped ass, and firmly passed back anything that looked like a down payment on something she didn't want to sell."
It is Earl, Anne's brother, who sets her up with Glen Waddell, a boy of 17 from a good family, but who was shy and unnervingly distant. The way Allison writes it, she makes it clear it is no one's fault when an abuser enters a family as it can be hard to tell, for some, right away and by the look in his eye, what kind of man he is. The Boatwrights are all infamous for their tempers and they seem to take to Glen just fine except a couple of them, especially Granny, who does not like Glen; saying there is something the matter with him.
None of the Boatwright men, with their dark hair and godly figures, seemed to have trouble with women, saying "no" to them. Earl's Catholic wife left him taking their three daughters with her. This earnestly surprised and embittered Earl as he didn't see what difference it made as long as he didn't marry any of the others. She seemed to think it made a difference and he never got over that she left him.
Granny speaks to Bone about Boatwright men, " 'Oh Bone!' she laughed. 'Maybe you should plan on marrying yourself a blond just to be safe. Huh?' " But for whatever hair color Glen has, and I don't think Allison ever says, only that his eyes are blue, there is something not right about him in a manner based on nuance at first. Granny never likes Glen and thinks there is something ill in his love toward people.
Bone, herself, cannot tell either way, as she describes him from a picture, "Mama's eyes were soft with old hurt and new hope; Glen's eyes told nothing. The man's image was as flat and empty as a sheet of tin in the sun, throwing back heat and light, but no details - not one clear line of who he really was behind those eyes."
Anne dates Glen for two years and in that time, Glen showed no signs of violence, other than there being something about his demeanor, that does not sit right with some people. Uncle Beau didn't like him as he didn't trust a man who didn't drink, "and Glen was as close to a teetotaler as the family had ever seen."
The night Anne was giving birth to her third child, Glen's son, Glen sat in the Pontiac, outside the hospital, smoking Pall Malls and talking to Bone, who is in the backseat with blankets, cokes and her sister Reese; as if Bone were an adult. " 'I know she's worried,' he said. 'She thinks if it's a girl, I won't love it. But it will be our baby, and if it's a girl, we can make another soon enough. I'll have my son...' "
Then, Glen molests Bone in the car, by masturbating against her and bruising her. Bone never tells anyone and instead develops an enclosed world of shame and masturbation, at an age where she should hardly know of such sexual encounters much less be experiencing them. It is unknown if Reese is abused in the same manner as Bone by Glen, as Bone never talks to Reese about it, but Reese also develops a private life of extreme fantasy, masturbation and orgasm at an abnormally early age. The girls have too much of a private life.
The baby Anne has dies at the hospital and Anne can no longer have children. Anne does not know her daughters are being molested but she does know her daughter is being beaten black and blue. "My collarbone fused with a lump the second time it was broken - ...In the hospital the young intern glared and ordered lots of x-rays. 'How'd she break her coccyx?' He demanded of Mama over the sheaf of x-rays when we were ready to go home...'Her what?'
'Her tailbone, lady, her ass. What have you been hitting the child with? Or have you been throwing her up against the wall?' "
Bone cannot tell the doctor she is being abused because she does not know him. She knows her mama; her smell, her fingers, the way her eyes crinkle when she smiles, the sound of her voice. " 'You can tell us,' he said in his stranger's voice." Anne takes Bone and Reese to aunt Alma's but two weeks later they were back with Daddy Glen who swore he would change.
They move from house to house every several months as Daddy Glen cannot keep a job or positive contacts for very long with anyone he works with. He gets into fights with peers at work and never seems to have his jobs come together. Bone goes from school to school, house to house, and the only friend she keeps for very long is an albino outcast, who is just a very ugly child. It is never described what exactly makes her ugly as albinism is unusual but should never make anyone less beautiful. There is just something about the way Shannon Pearl comes together that turns people's stomachs to look at her.
Shannon is bullied by the universe with the exception of her parents and Bone. Her mother sews costume decorations for members of gospel revivals. Bone pulls Shannon into the same seat as herself and Raylene, while they are all on the schoolbus. No one would let Shannon sit next to them and Bone pulled Shannon down next to her with Raylene looking at Bone as if to say, "Have you lost your mind?" Bone figured the Boatwright reputation would protect from the other kids doing anything about it, and she was right.
The two girls have a very adult view of sex considering they are about 10. "Shannon giggled and waved me out on the porch. 'Sometimes Mama needs a little hand on her throttle. You know what I mean?' She laughed and rolled her eyes like a broken kewpie doll.' Daddie has to throttle her back down to a human level or she'd take off like a helium angel.'
I couldn't help myself. I laughed back, remembering what Aunt Raylene had said about Mrs. Pearl - 'If she'd been f-cked right just once, she'd have never birthed that weird child.' " But Shannon, with all her patience and all her hatred, was not long for this world as she picks up lighter fluid while at a BBQ and sprays the fire so that it connects to the liquid canister, gets sucked inward for one silent second, and then explodes outward in a huge ball of flame. Shannon inhales the flame as it simultaneously encompasses her body, takes a few swaying steps as she stumbles from side to side and then collapses.
With the loss of her friend, Bone becomes even less secure of her world. Shannon did seem smart. She had a connection with Bone, that when lost, left the latter more isolated. Also, Bone was the only witness of the event in its entirety.
Bone's uncles are shown her bruises, as Aunt Raylene catches Bone in the bathroom, notices blood on the back of her panties and lifts up Bone's skirt. "Sweet suffering Jesus!" Bone is made terrified by the bruises being discovered. Glen is beaten up severely in turn, but that doesn't seem to stop him from coming to find Bone and hurt her even more.
Allison shows a lot of practicality and courage in detailing her story. Bone is removed to live with an aunt, who lives in a rural location. The family is divided as wherever Anne goes, Glen will follow and it makes more sense for them to split up than to stay together. Bone gets good grades at school, this entire time. She is not yet thirteen when the novel ends.
By Sarah Bahl
This novel, by Alice Walker takes a little getting used to for a couple of reasons. The first being that the violence is so harsh it is hard to digest. The second is that the speaker writes so calmly about it. The combination of the stoic and the horror is a contrast that is hard to swallow. The voice is of Celie, a 14 year old girl who is writing letters to God about her mother giving birth to Luciana. I suppose one can more easily write an objective letter to God than to anyone, as what has God not seen? When her mother leaves to visit a doctor in Macon, Georgia, her father rapes her. "He never had a kind word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn't." It's like reading about a bad dream.
When I start to hurt and then my stomach start moving and then that little baby come out my pussy chewing on it fist you could have knock me over with a feather. Ain't nobody come see us. She got sicker and sicker. Finally she ast where is it? I say God took it. He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kill it out there in the woods. Kill this one too if he can.
As a reader, I had to intake the first letters to God a couple of times, because my reaction was, "Did I just read that? She had babies by her father?" And she did. The novel is very direct in terms of action. There is no explanation of character, no outline of environment nor setting. The reader gets thrown into a world as if snooping among a teenage girl's letters.
Celie's mother dies and her little sister, Nettie, is her only loving family member. Once Celie's mother dies she has a new mammy almost immediately. Her father, she calls "He" and for some reason she can't have children anymore. Celie is given away by her father to a man, she calls Mr. ________.
Nettie's boyfriend is also Mr. _______.
Celie was taken out of school early because of her pregnancies. Nettie tries to keep teaching her. But soon Celie is given to Mr. _______, and she cares for him and his four brats; the oldest boy busts open Nettie's head with a rock, on her wedding day. Mr. ______ has sex with her when she's still bleeding from the head. Celie was shown a picture of Mr. ______ 's girlfriend, Shug Avery who is beautiful, but Mr. ______ told her to leave as she was too much trouble for him. Celie is thin, homely but she works hard and ducks and dodges to survive.
While at the dry goods store, Celie sees her little girl, Olivia. The Reverend and his wife have adopted her. So, at least her children are not dead. Celie follows the Reverend's wife and asks, "How long you had your little girl?" Later, after he is done with his errand, Mr. ______ finds Celie sitting in their wagon laughing to herself.
Nettie moves in with Celie as she ran away from home; and tells Celie she should not let the children rule her like that but Celie says they have the upper hand. Nettie tells her to fight, "But I don't know how to fight. All I know how to do is stay alive."
Mr. ______ /He tells Celie that Nettie cannot stay there anymore and so Nettie leaves and they do not know where to. Celie tells Nettie to ask the Reverand's wife for help as she is the only woman Celie has ever seen with any money. "I say, Write. She say, What? I say, Write. She say, Nothing but death can keep me from it. She never write."
Mr. ______ sisters come to visit, their names are Carrie and Kate. The latter takes Celie shopping for a dress made just for her. A navy blue one as red is too happy for Mr. ______ and the store doesn't have the color purple. "Buy Celie some clothes. She say to Mr. ______ . She need clothes? he ast. Well look at her. He look at me. It like he looking at the earth. It need somethin? his eyes say."
Harpo, the eldest who busted in Celie's head; doesn't want to work as he is a man and work is for women. Celie does all the work for the family. She plows, cooks, cleans and raises the children to actually have morals. Harpo falls in love with a girl, Sophia from church. Sophia becomes big soon enough. Neither set of parents of either Harpo nor Sophia think the other is good enough, so Sophia goes to live with her sister until she and Harpo can marry.
They do marry and live well enough together for three years, but Harpo comes to Celie and Mr. ______ to ask what he can do to get Sophia to do what he tells her to all the time. Celie tells him to beat Sophia. The next time they see Harpo, his face is cut and bruised. Everytime he beats Sophia, she gives it right back.
Sophia gives Celie back a gift of curtains and thread. And a dollar extra for their use. Celie says they were a gift and Sophia should keep them.
"You told Harpo to beat me, she said." Celie admits, eventually, that she did say this and says it's because she is jealous, of Sophia for fighting. Plus, if something is done for so long to a person it's hard for that person not to do the same thing to somebody else. Hence cyclic abuse.
Celie felt horrible and could not sleep from the pain of the guilt, but she said it all the same. Sophia forgives Celie and they talk about their lives. "All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain't safe in a family of men."
But men are a part of things. And when Shug Avery Mr. ______ 's old girlfriend becomes sick he takes her in as no one else does, for Celie to care for. "She look me over from head to foot. Then she cackle. Sound like a death rattle. You sure is ugly, she say, like she ain't believe it."
Shug and Mr. ______ commence with their biblical relations and Celie does not mind. Celie is more attracted to Shug than her husband. She and Shug find Nettie's letters together in a trunk of He. Despite that Mr. ______ and Shug have had three children together... "But what was good tween us must have been nothing but bodies, she say. Cause I don't know the Albert that don't dance, can't hardly laugh, never talk bout nothing, beat you and hid your sister Nettie's letters. Who he?"
Celie knew her husband to beat her and treat her like dirt, but to hide letters, to keep her from her own family, she never thought he would do. Nettie wrote to Celie for over thirty years. Nettie, with her education and missionary work writes to Celie with all her ideas of the world and her travels. Celie begins to write Nettie back, about her love affair with Shug and about her work designing pants. Mr. ______ tells Celie that she's ugly and worth nothing but she leaves him anyway.
Nettie cares for Celie's children. And they continue to write each other though, for some reason they don't receive each other's letters. Celie gets a telegram saying Nettie's ship was destroyed by a German mine and that Nettie is probably dead. But Celie does not believe it and the two write each other regardless. Celie finds from her sister that their father is not really their biological father, though this should not lessen in any manner his crimes toward Celie.
They are all eventually reunited as a family. And though they are older now, Celie does not feel old. "And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this is the youngest us ever felt." And so is the last statement of The Color Purple, which I do not think represents domestic violence accurately. I've never been given bruises by a man, but with true abuse, the violence just usually never ends. And there is really nothing to learn from it or gain from it. Abuse is actually pretty boring in the sense, that there is nothing new about it to the world. And that in the end the man who rapes Celie when she is 14 is not actually related by blood to her, should not devalue the horror that a father took advantage of his child in such a manner.
I really loved reading this book for its themes related to education, connections as family, the reality of sexual relations, and the victory of independence in the face of abuse. Maybe the ending is a matter of triumphing as a family over violence, but in doing so it also seems to excuse the inexcusable somewhat. It is as if the author is mocking Shakespeare's, "All's well that ends well."
My favorite part is in the middle of the story, when Celie is talking to Shug about the world and God's perspective. Shug says, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." I think the real point is not whether it all ties together happily in the end, but whether or not a person notices the color purple as a gift from God, wherever they happen to go.
By Sarah Bahl
Hurston's Janie is an African American woman who is neither victim nor saint, living during the 1920s and 30s in the American South. The novel begins, "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, ever out of sight, never landing until the watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men." Then, the delineation comes out in the piece, "Now, women forget all those things they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly."
Janie holds the opinion to such thoughts as she returns to her home town after a long journey away. She is 40 years old. And for an unknown reason has never had children. She wears her hair long down her back, like a young girl, her body is tightly built, yet full so the men folk notice. The town whispers, "What she doin coming back here in dem overalls? Can't she find no dress to put on? - Where's dat blue satin dress she left here in? - Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her in? - What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair swingin' down her back lak some young gal? -Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? - Thought she was going to marry? - Where he left her? - What he done wid all her money? -Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain't even got no hairs -why she don't stay in her class?-"
And Janie meets with Phoebe, her old time friend. Phoebe gives Janie a meal of mulatto rice and they talk like old friends tend to talk, with an inborn familiarity whereby the settings; time and place may change but the friendship never does. Phoebe warns Janie of the town gossipers and Janie responds with "If God don't think no mo' 'bout 'em then Ah do, they's a lost ball in de high grass."
Janie relies on Phoebe to be her voice (really her public relations) to the towns people. And as the sun sets and the dark descends Phoebe and Janie sit on the porch of Janie's house while Janie tells her story. "Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches."
She was raised without ever seeing her father. Her mother left too, before Janie was old enough to know her. She was raised by her grandmother and the white people her grandmother worked with. Janie grew up in West Florida, playing with the grandchildren of her grandmother's employer, Mis Washburn.
She didn't know she was African American until she was six years old. The family had a portrait taken and Janie, called Alphabet by the Washburns because she had been given so many names looked at the photograph and thought she must not be in it, because the only one not identified by name was a dark little girl with long hair. The Washburns laughed and pointed Janie out to herself.
Janie is, for better or worse, much better off with the Washburns than a lot of African American children in general were at the time. It does seem Mis Washburn genuinely cares for Janie and her grandmother, who everyone calls Nanny. But Janie's ultimate conundrum is that she is torn between two worlds. The black children at school consider her to be too fine, with her long flowing hair and white children's clothes. She was given outgrown clothing from the Washburns but it was still much nicer than most clothing given to African American children. She was picked on by the kids at school, who told her mean and lopsided stories about her parents. Nanny didn't like seeing her granddaughter's head hanging so low, and then with the support of the Washburns they were granted a house and more space.
Nanny loved Janie as she grows up. She didn't want her girl to suffer, from so many constraints and spiteful factions that could befall a pretty and single woman making her way in the world. When Nanny sees Janie kissing with Johnny Taylor, a soul Janie always viewed as shiftless until she started noticing how much fun it is to kiss with him, she pulls her granddaughter aside and commands her with powers of soft acceptance, rather than force, that Janie needs to marry a safe and good man as soon as possible. Nanny wanted Janie to continue with school, but Janie has no wish to go to college. It is unknown how much education Janie has exactly. But it is known at the age of 16, Janie does not want any more schooling.
Nanny insists Janie marry Brother Logan Killicks with his sixty acres, as Nanny knows herself to be soon to die and she does not want to go to her grave with her grandchild unprotected. Logan Killicks weds Janie and though he lives a common life, Janie is well cared for and never starved. He loves her perfectly, speaking rhymes to her and looking after all her needs, but she just doesn't want him. Janie wants to be kissed by love like a fruit tree is kissed by bees in the spring.
Logan does everything that he is supposed to and Janie is bored, or at least not naturally attracted to him. But at the same time, Janie is a 16 year old girl at the time of her wedding. She really had no choice in the matter and she had never been used badly by a man. She is a teenager and doesn't know first hand how some men can really be.
Janie leaves Logan for the stylish Joe Starks, who she meets while she is peeling potatoes by the roadside and he promises Janie to take her away and treat her like a lady. The next day, Janie meets up with Joe along the road, where Joe had a hired driver to take them both to Green Cove Springs.
Logan treated Janie with all the logic and soul he had, but he still had his heart broken by this pretty young bride who just couldn't love him. Joe had charisma and a strong head for business. He married Janie just like he said he would. They run a store together in the colored section of Orange County and have a fine house. With Joe Starks, Janie becomes the mayor's wife. But Joe does not say rhymes to Janie. He criticizes her work in the store endlessly and their sex life becomes non existent.
Janie stays married to Joe for twenty years, until Joe's death from kidney failure. Joe refused to see a doctor, when he became sick and instead would see sham medicine men who took his money and did nothing for him. Janie finally sends for a real doctor once Joe is too sick to protest, but by the time the doctor comes, it is too late. "Just a matter of time," the doctor told her. "When a man's kidneys stop working altogether, there is no way for him to live. He needed medical attention two years ago. Too late now."
And with Joe on his death bed, Janie lets fly as to what she has really been thinking of him for about twenty years. " 'All dis tearin' down talk!' Jody [Joe] whispered with sweat globules forming all over his face and arms. 'Git outa heah!'
'All dis bowin' down, all dis obedience under yo' voice-dat ain't whut Ah rushed off down de road tuh find out about you.' A sound of strife in Jody's throat, but his eyes stared unwillingly into a corner of the room so Janie knew the futile fight was not with her. The icy sword of the square-toed one had cut off his breath and left his hands in a pose of agonizing protest. Janie gave them peace on his breast, then she studied his dead face for a long time."
It is as if Janie decided to tear out his soul and then watch him die. Her next husband is the dark skinned Tea Cake who is much younger than she and who she is happy to work the fields with. But Janie shoots Tea Cake to death after he becomes rabid from a dog bite. The only reason Janie is acquitted of the murder is due to the jury being composed of white people.
And so, at the age of 40, Janie returns to the house she had with Joe. She is free. From each man, Janie lost something and gained something.
By Sarah Bahl
Salome Muller, was born in 1809 in Langensoultzbach, Alsace, three years before the first of a series of East Indies volcanic eruptions that would create a disastrous cooling trend with other major environmental changes across Europe and Asia. In Alsace, the air was filled with a haze, and crops planted at the usual time in spring would be frozen over and new ones planted. But by August whatever had survived of the new plantings would be killed by an early frost. Millions suffered and starved. If what was planted did not survive there was no plan B. Children were sent to forage for nuts and berries. Men hunted, but game grew scarce.
The year 1816 is known as The Year Without a Summer and it was during the winter of that year that Daniel Muller got together with his wife, Dorothea and their four children, into his brother Henry's kitchen. Henry had a wife, and three children, two girls and one boy; both families gathered around a lithograph of a couple with their children in Missouri, with flowers in their front garden, geese in a yard, and cattle grazing in lush pasture as part of the background.
The Muller families were Alsatian shoemakers, and if a decision was made to emigrate to America, then both would go together. A couple more families from the village joined the discussion and their imaginings were to travel to a land of plenty, as a group and to live and prosper in America as independent families living next to each other as they were now except with plenty of game to hunt and fish and crops to eat.
They assured themselves of guaranteed employment in The New World. "The men were farmers, locksmiths, shoemakers, and storekeepers. The women were cooks, milliners and midwives. They carried Bibles, food, precious musical instruments and tools of their trades," as they left the village in the spring to travel to where they could embark upon the long ocean voyage to America.
The journey was beyond brutal for when the Muller families, along with nearly everyone else from Langensoultzbach, got to Amsterdam, they found themselves to be of the lowest sought cargo of all: immigrants. Shipowners of ill repute were the only persons willing to deal in such a trade as hauling impoverished men, women and children across the Atlantic, all in hope of a new life. The first shipowner, of the dilapidated Rudolph vessel, took the Mullers' money and the specie of the estimated 900 others who were crammed into the Rudolph, waiting for it to sail. But the shipowner was never seen again, as after waiting for days, the family heads, Daniel and Henry, left the anchored ship and entered the city to search for the man who had absconded with the last of their savings. The brothers found to their horror that the supposed shipowner had not only left town with some of the final savings of 900 poor immigrants, but he had never owned the ship to begin with. The original owners had no time nor inclination to clean up the thief's mess because they were in court attempting to reclaim ownership of the vessel, rotted as it may have been. The Muller families along with the other immigrants were all ordered off the ship after five months of living there because the court had finally decided to return the less than grand Rudolph to its original owners and the Mullers were to go back to Amsterdam and be under the care of local governance and charity.
The government, due to the overwhelming number of immigrants held up and running ragged through the streets of Amsterdam, offered to pay 30,000 guilders to anyone willing to transport these poor impoverished beings to America. The Mullers were told to go back to Helder; for despite it being winter, a new ship was ready to set sail to America. The New Sea Air, as the latest vessel of wonder was ironically named, was in worse shape than the Rudolph. The Mullers boarded her, but she was not to take them to their dream country. Her mast broke from winter gales and the ship returned to port, shortly after setting sail.
A new merchant to the scene, Mr. Krahnstover, agreed to take the tolerant souls to America via New Orleans port, on three different, well conditioned ships, but on the condition that upon arrival in America, the immigrants would be sold as redemptioners. In essence the immigrants had become a form of slave cargo. The names of the ships were: The Emmanuel, the brig, Juffer Johanna, and a brigatine, Johanna Maria. And upon all three ships carrying 1100 people total, one departing after another; rations were scarce. Ventilation within the hull was inadequate. Drinking water went bad. It is astounding any of them survived the voyage. But some did. Though of the Muller family, Daniel's youngest child lasted no more than two weeks out of Helder. And the next day, Dorothea died. The father wrapped up both his wife and son in shoddy canvas sheets and tipped them overboard into the water. Henry Muller's wife died. Every day a different body was given to the sea.
Due to hiring of an incompetent crew, whose resume expertise was that of canals and not oceans, a journey that should have lasted two months took at least three to five. There were only provisions for two months. But finally, finally, a mud colored canal appeared to break apart the ocean, it was the Mississippi. At last it was America! The group traveled up the mouth of the river and into the city of New Orleans. But here, the families were broken apart. Redemptioners were cheaper than slaves, with five or six of them being purchasable for the price of one slave. But their servitude would be for a certain number of years, rather than full life as with a slave. So, the maintenance expense, overall, was much less for an indentured servant than a slave.
And rarely, if ever, would whole immigrant families be bought together. Husbands, wives, and children were sold separately. The going rate for short term immigrant slaves was 80 dollars for men, 70 for women, 60 for boys and girls are not mentioned. Though, short term, connotes that servitude was not for life. But children could work for 10 years or more depending on the age they are at the time of their sale.
The Muller families agreed to stay together but into the third week, it became clear they would be fortunate to find a master to take the father of each head and his children together, much less both families. By this time, a starved Henry Muller with Salome, her sister and brother, were bought, all four, by a farmer in Bayou Sara, a four days sail up the Mississippi.
According to a tale later told by a boat crewman, a Dutch man and his three children, set up the Mississippi, but the man died while on the voyage, (perhaps from eating too much after starving for so long) and his son drowned, probably due to suicide. So, two little girls were all that was left of the Henry Muller family. They were left by the boatmen with signs around their necks at the Bayou Sara, a desolate stopping point.
Then on a spring morning in 1843 Madame Carl Routt traversed the neighborhoods of New Orleans to visit a friend. On her way she sees a woman, dressed as a slave, with a tignon of bright madras cotton, a course linen dress and a dark kersey shawl. Madame Carl was struck by the woman and thought her to be Dorothea Muller, before she realized herself and decided if the woman, sitting in the sun before her was not Dorothea Muller, then it was likely Salome, her daughter. And so, begins a deeply complicated and convoluted court battle as to the identity of Salome Muller; pitting the German community against the owners, current and past, of the light skinned slave woman.
The girl Madam Carl thinks is Salome describes herself as a yellow girl by the name of Mary Miller. By all accounts Salome did appear to be very close in similarity to a quadroon, a person at the time of 1/4 African heritage. But the physical difference between a quadroon and an olive skinned German girl was truly impossible to say. Basically as long as a person had any African ancestry whatsoever, they were considered a slave in the United States unless freed according to law.
The German community fought for Mary Miller's freedom, stating she was really Salome Muller. Along the course of the proceeding, Salome, was thought to be also called Sally Miller. According to documentation a Salemia Muller was sold to a Thomas Grayson. Where she ended up after that no one really knows. Various identities were formed on the basis of Salome Muller. Mary Miller, Bridget Wilson, Sally Miller, and Polly Moore among others.
The story captivated New Orleans and ruined the reputations of slave owning men. The author claims her to be truly Bridget Wilson the slave. Though, the bibliography index has a Saloma Meller listed, yet there is no Meller mentioned in the book. (The difference could be a matter of pronunciation or translation). So, whoever she was, she certainly withheld the art of captivation.
By Sarah Bahl