ERIC Number: ED221443
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980
Reference Count: 0
If Trees Would Talk: The Communication of Resistance in Ex-Slave Narratives. Working Paper.
Clift, Arlene L.
Examples drawn from books and interviews of blacks reveal techniques of oral and literate communication both during and after slavery. These techniques fall into two complementary categories: communication as surreptitious resistance and communication about overt resisters. Surreptitious communication occurred through the use of code words which signalled meetings and escapes. For example, spirituals with heavenly themes actually referred to the end of slavery and the word "weevil" referred to the white patrollers who kept slaves from escaping. Often tales included messages at odds with stated conclusions; that is, a testimony stating that blacks are not dependable because they learn so early to be deceptive really illustrates a unity among the slaves who used code words when the white master eavesdropped on them. Communication about overt resisters, both male and female, usually focused on the slave who wouldn't be whipped. The message of these tales was that a slave who resisted punishment asserted his or her humanity and dignity. Thus, the personal accounts of slaves illustrate that they resisted in many ways. What they remembered and how they communicated their memories reveal messages important to them beyond slavery itself. (Author/KC)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Radcliffe Coll., Cambridge, MA. Mary Ingraham Bunting Inst.