Samira Leila Omarshah
In many ways, slave narratives represent written archives of the the authors’ identities, and testaments to those identities. Through the consideration of what constitutes self-making and representing a struggle unknown to the intended reader (white Americans), the parts of an identity that are left out of the narratives become apparent. This project aims to consider “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass” and Solomon Northup’s “Twelve Years A Slave” as advertisements for abolition as well as mediums for self-making for their authors. By then comparing the two narratives to Runaway Slave Advertisements written by slave owners, deeper issues concerning relationships between slave and master as well as a narrative told from the ‘other side’ arise. Invoking W.E.B. Du Bois’ theories of “Double Consciousness”, having a “twoness of mind” and “the Veil”, the project will analyze the ways in which slaves both externally and internally developed their identity/ies. Finally, through the use of coding and frequency analyses, the project will explore questions of language regarding the words chosen by the former slaves as compared to the words chosen by their white oppressors to describe the ‘slave’ identity. It is important to note that slavery was a reduction of human beings to number values. The intention of this project is not to mimic the same reduction. The digital analyses is a means of extracting information from the two narratives and advertisements that would be missed from a ‘manual’ close reading.