Adaptation of Modern African-American Writers

814 Words Jul 8th, 2018 4 Pages
Adaptation of Modern African-American Writers

Modern writers learn from the past by reading works written by authors of that particular era. Contemporary African-American writers gain knowledge and insight into the horrendous and sometimes harmonious conditions that plagued Africans during slavery and the slave trade. By reading the actual words, thoughts, and feelings of these enslaved Africans, modern writers receive information from the perspective of the victimized. Lucille Clifton's "slaveship" is a vivid example of a contemporary writer borrowing from the past to depict another account of the slave trade. The fact that Clifton's father told her stories about her family's struggle and she, herself, traced her lineage back to
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As a result of the kidnapping and brutalization of these Africans, many knew that returning to their homeland was not an option. In "slaveship", the narrator asks someone if "ever again can [his] tongue speak, can [his] bone walkäcan this sin live" (lines 19-22). These lines can be interpreted to mean will he speak his native language again, will he ever get off this boat, and will he ever live his former life again. Likewise, in Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, he "saw [himself] deprived of all chance of returning to [his] native country" (p 157). Even the idea of referring to slaves or Africans as a "sin" is not from Clifton's own experience. Phillis Wheatley wrote about people viewing Blacks as a walking sin because of the controversy surrounding the mark placed on Cain by God in "On Being Brought from Africa to America". She said that "some view our sable race with scornful eye. 'Their colour is a diabolic die.' Remember Christians, Negros black as Cain" (p 171, lines 5-7). Clifton adapts from Equiano and Wheatley by using her imagination and creative thoughts to capture the experience of the Middle Passage for many Africans.

The tone of Clifton's "slaveship" parallels the works by Equiano and Wheatley. In "slaveship", the narrator expresses despair and disgust about his situation and disgrace for the men who captured him and the other Africans. He wants to know from "Jesus [or] Angel can these be men who vomit us out from ships called Jesus, Angel, and
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