In the slave autobiography 12 Years a Slave, the writer, Solomon Northup, is a kidnapped freeman from NY, and he spent 12 years in slavery under five different masters. One of those masters, William Ford, bought Northup (Under the name Platt) and Eliza. Both Eliza and Platt had kids, and both became separated from their kids, but they reacted in entirely different manners. Platt (Northup) reacted by working to free himself, over twelve years. Every time he thought it was over, he thought of his kids and determined he would see them again. He credited staying alive to the thought of his kids, though he said that it would’ve been even better if they hadn’t been born – or more specifically, that he hadn’t been born. Eliza, on the other hand, straight-up lost her will to live. This reaction was likely because before she got sold, she had been promised freedom after an owner’s death. However, by a technicality, a cousin got her, and sold her instead of freeing her; then, when he executed the bill of sale, he told her it was her free papers. Then when her daughter was taken away, she was told her daughter would be sold for household abuse. Her son also sold as a field hand. She lost all hope and didn’t work in the field, so she didn’t get fed, and she starved to death. Their reactions also had impacts on whether they saw their kids again; Platt (Northup) worked hard enough, and through that, he stayed with the same master almost the entire twelve years, so his siblings and uncle could find him and free him. Eliza, however, never saw her kids again, because she died. She might not have even if she had worked well, due to her kids being sold and resold so that nobody could find them. In conclusion, in the slave autobiography 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, two characters were contrasted. Solomon himself, and another slave named Eliza were both separated from their kids and sold. One was told what her children would be doing once they were separated, while the other was not informed. One kept high hopes and kept pushing onwards, while the other simply lost the will to live, and died of a broken heart. And finally, one of them survived and saw his kids again, while the other lost everything to grief.
In the late 1800s, there was a massive market for slave autobiographies dissing the slave system, and many entrepreneurial blacks and printers worked together to fill that gap. One of those previous slaves was John Thompson. His autobiography was one of the first, and he put the slave system in an evil light. However, he did not provide very persuasive evidence, other than his word, a few other slaves, and a bunch of “Wrath of God” stories. It doesn’t help that in some cases, he builds a story from nothing, and embellishes the heck out of it. For instance, he says that many of his masters were sadistic and very cruel. He says that they beat him almost all the time and that many of them loved to do it. How do we know that his statements are true? All the other slaves he mentions are dead, and so is Thompson. We can’t check whether his statements are true or not, so we have to trust that he isn’t lying to get attention. It doesn’t help his credibility that he made up a “wrath of God” story then embellished it, but if you read carefully, we know he wasn’t there, so he made up the story. That does not help his credibility at all. He also has a bunch of “wrath of God” stories, meaning that “the evil is destroyed by God.” For instance, he tells about Mary, who was sent out by her master to cut wood in the snow, with no shoes. Then when she didn’t get back fast enough, he put her head under a fence and sat on the rail to make it sag! Thomson said that “While thus occupied, he had a violent pain at his heart, of which he died three days later.” He felt sure that this heart attack was the work of God, who was slowly righting the wrongs of slavery. What he says in the book, however, indicates that he thinks that if safeguards were put on the system, then everything would be instantly fixed. The power-hungry masters could no longer be cruel, the slaves would work harder, knowing that they wouldn’t be whipped for no reason, and the plantations would thrive. His underlying message is, “Put safeguards against cruelty on the slave system.” He was okay with being a slave, he just wasn’t okay with getting beat because the master wanted to beat him. In summary, John Thompson’s autobiography is one of the more influential slave autobiographies, and he certainly disses the slave system thoroughly. Still, he doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to back him up, other than his word, a bunch of dead slaves, and the “wrath of God.” His embellishment of a fake story doesn’t help. However, his basic idea was “institute safeguards on slavery” not “abolish slavery completely.” So no, he did not provide sufficient evidence that the slave system is morally evil.
In the last lesson, I described my biggest problem and how I can solve that problem. Now, this week, I have to actually go and do it. But first, I have to plan out how it’s going to work. First of all, this week is going to be a very busy one. If you don’t know what I mean by that, go check out some of my speeches. If you do know what I mean, then you know that I have very little time to myself. Only weekends, once I’m caught up with school, breaks, when I’m in between, and some lucky hours when I (rarely) get my work done for the day. However, at any time during my day, I am talking and interacting with people. For instance, during public school, I talk to my classmates and teacher. At home, I talk to Mom, Aden, and Dad. At swim, I talk to my fellow swimmers, and Spartan I talk to Aden and the trainer. At any point during any of those, I could get into an argument. And when I get into an argument, here’s what should happen: ******************* Me: “Blah is correct” Somebody: “No, Blah Blah is correct” Me: “Okay, maybe Blah Blah is correct. I’m not sure I was correct” Somebody: “Maybe Blah is correct. Let’s research it” Me: “Okay!” *Googles it* Somebody: “See? Blah Blah is correct!” Me: “Good to know – Thanks for informing me!” ****************** Here’s what currently happens: ****************** Me: “Blah is correct” Somebody: “No, Blah Blah is correct.” Me: “No, I’m quite sure that Blah is correct” Somebody: “Let’s look it up” Me: “I’m sure I’m right” *Looks it up on Google* Somebody: “See, Blah Blah is correct!” Me: “Darn you!”
What I have to do is do literally exactly what Carnegie says: “Admit you might be wrong, and do it emphatically.” However, I don’t like being wrong, and I certainly don’t want to admit that I’m wrong. I always like being right. So I have to really condition myself to not auto-defend myself if somebody refutes what I’m saying. So this week, I will keep track of what I argue, and how I could’ve done better about not being a brat. I’ll start with today:
~8:30 AM Mom: “Whose bowl is this on the counter?” Aden: “Not mine.” Me: “Not mine” Mom: “So it just appeared there?” Me: “I don’t know where it came from.” Mom: “Just clean it up.” *Walks in to clean it up – (it’s my oatmeal bowl from this morning)* Me: “There, it’s cleaned up.” Mom: *walks away* What I could’ve done: I probably could’ve looked at it first, then admitted it’s mine and cleaned it up. Alternate: could’ve cleaned it up earlier that morning.
In the 1800s, There was a lot of animosity between different races, and a subcategory of that animosity was the battle between the slaves and the slaveowners. Many autobiographies were written in that time, by many Blacks who had obtained educations. This was in an effort to say that there needed to be safeguards on the system to prevent the abuse of the slave by the owner. One of those autobiographies was by a man named John Thompson. Thompson was a refugee slave from Maryland in the mid-1800s. His book contains a recount of most of his 25 years as a slave and the many “Providential” parts of his incredibly lucky escape. He starts way back in 1812 when he was born. He then goes through how he was treated in his childhood, and a basic description of the farm he lived on. He also mentions that if the slaves missed a tobacco worm when cleaning the field, they had to eat it. He talks about a few other things and then moves on. He often mentions the many beatings and unjust punishments that the slaves had to endure at the owner’s fancy. The message that he implies when mentioning those, though, is that slavery is okay, just add some safeguards so that if people are cruel, they can only do so much. They can’t just decide to go beat a slave for no reason. And he never said that all the masters were cruel, he just implied that safeguards should be put in place just in case. Because many of those masters were driven mad by the power to do whatever, whenever. In fact, he said repeatedly that many were very nice, or at the very least humane. Many other slaves testified to this, and many of them had the same connection between negative sanctions and slavery – the lack of safeguards on the masters is directly linked to the negative sanctions that the master or overseers repeatedly impose. And there was nothing the slaves could do about it but take it in stride. That was why they wrote their autobiographies. These men had a huge impact on what happened over the next 100+ years, as their autobiographies were read and reread, and eventually understood and then obsolete. This was thanks to the fact that the problem had been fixed. So thanks to these men and women, the institution of slavery was abolished.
When Charles Darwin wrote his autobiography, he was famous beyond measure. His theory had spread all over the world in a matter of days, and the overturning of religion had already begun. His autobiography came out, and everybody wanted to read it, whether it was boring or not – and it was about as boring and dry as those anatomy lectures he mentions. His career was built on hours upon hours of careful study – boring study – of beetles, so his book isn’t much better. There is a little bit of humor in places, but not enough to really make it interesting. I may not be famous or change the world, but I can always do better than Darwin did. All I have to do is add some fun, spice it up, and emphasize the best parts. For instance, I can make jokes about things I did in the past, or add colorful details into the book (But not too much). Those two things already make that autobiography better, and not half as dry as just recounting the things that led up to fame. What people want to know is, “How much like this person am I?” Thus, if I do get famous, then writing everyday details is critical. They need to know that celebs still brush their teeth and do paperwork and taxes. They need an origin story, how they earned their fame. Those things people will read for – it encourages them to do it themselves. However, even if I don’t get famous, then an everyday biography is good. All that’s necessary is lots of humor. What I will do like him, however, is write it near the end of my life, and get everything in there. I don’t want an autobiography that is half-complete; that is to say, it ends when I reach 43, then I die at age 92. That is bad. I want to write it at, say, 60. Then there’s time for me to finish those remaining years, so I don’t have to write the entire book while I’m fatally ill. Charles Darwin was a ridiculously famous man. His autobiography was guaranteed to be read by many, so he didn’t have to make it very exciting. That was a key mistake – the book turned out bland, boring, and dry. I can use his book as an example of what not to do to hold an audience’s attention and do better than he did. All that I need is spice, humor, and detail.
When people write their autobiographies, they’re rich, famous, dying, or all of the above. Be they Hollywood stars, politicians, military, inventors, or others, they’ve all made a speech of some kind. By my calculations, I’m probably not going to be any of those, but I will make speeches. Everybody does; it could be for work, to prove a point to a friend, or even for professional debates. The question is, do I take the transcripts of the speeches I make and insert them into my autobiography, choose the best/most influential speeches, or only mention them? If I took all of the speeches that I’ve made, it would give plenty of insight into how my public speaking skills progressed, but it would either be about twenty million videos, or an infinite number of pages. I could take most of each speech, and use transcripts, but that would still take up hundreds of pages. It could also be that I get into the Air Force Academy, and never use Public Speaking again, so it’s somewhere near 50 speeches/25 pages. It depends. Also, that may be the most difficult path, requiring hours to take transcripts and insert them. It’s easier to choose the best ones. Taking the best ones and cutting down on them is probably the best idea. I may have a ton of videos, but if I only reference a few, my readers can watch those in two hours. It would cut a bit away from the development/progress of my public speaking skills. Still, if they really wanted to, they could find my videos on YouTube. It would take less time writing down transcripts, though it would take time. Those would take up significantly less space than just slapping all my speeches ever onto hundred-plus pages. What would take up the least space is just mentioning them, maybe one or two referrals to videos which were exceptionally good. However, that would almost wholly skip what could be one of the most critical activities in my life – could be hundreds of talks, but could be like 50. Any of these three is a risk – the number of speeches could be astronomical, or astronomically small. I may not be rich, famous, or dying, but speeches I’ve made will be a problem in my autobiography. I could cut and paste every last address I’ve ever done in, cut the best ones and try not to bore the readers, or not put them in; I think the best option is to reduce the best ones. There could be many or few, and that approach is flexible enough to match the criteria – besides, it shows how much of an impact I had on what I did.