Black Odyssey: the Ordeal of Slavery in America: Review

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Black Odyssey: The Ordeal of Slavery in America: Review In this short work Professor Huggins explores the position and achievement of black slaves in American society, with its dream of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness', from which they were excluded, except as necessary instruments. Wisely, instead of cramming a narrative of 250 years of complex social and economic history into 242 pages of text, he uses his talents as an established historian of black American culture to offer the general, rather than the academic, reader an admirable blend of the higher generalization and the higher popularization. Professor Huggins draws on recent work on the slave family and on black initiatives within the structure of slave society, as…show more content…
All this is a little too close to what A. G. Hopkins called, in the Introduction to his brilliant Economic History of West Africa, the 'Myth of Merrie Africa'. This myth, and any static picture of the African past, does an injustice to the dynamic and innovative features in African society. However, Professor Muggins is, of course, far more concerned with Black America than with Black Africa, and here his journal is much more persuasive. He is right to point out that all forms of social and cultural achievement among the slaves - such as the black family, black Christianity and black speech, music and dance - can be shown to be essentially black achievements. Far from being parodies by inferior beings of white models, these were heroic achievements, constructed and maintained in the face of white attitudes that ranged from condescending amusement through indifference to outright hostility. They preserved, for the Afro-American people, individual and collective self-respect, and prevented them, as Professor Huggins rightly emphasizes, from being mere victims. Furthermore, they contributed to American culture in general some of its most vital, characteristic and creative achievements - hence the paradox that no Americans are more American than the black slaves and their descendants, who were excluded from full membership of American society, North or South. When it comes to matters of Black resistance and adaptation to the slave system,

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