Book 2 Response Part 2 (Reading 3)

Reading3

Pages 163-233


Summary

Reading three begins with the chapter, “Milk for the longest time.” The chapter begins with Georgia using herbal remedy to give Aminata an abortion after Master Appleby raped her. After this, Aminata never leaves Georgia’s side and Appleby bought a new slave named Sally who he “had his way with” many times before she died of the pox. Aminata continues to learn about her world from Mamed. One day, Georgia approaches Aminata and coaxes out of her that she is two months pregnant by Chekura. Georgia tells Aminata not to tell Master Appleby Chekura’s name and when the baby’s born to nurse it as long as possible so that she can keep the child. It is shortly after this that Aminata is first introduced to Solomon Lindo, the indigo inspector for the province of South Carolina. Georgia, Aminata and a few other slave women make gumbo without pork for Lindo, which peaks Aminata’s interest because she also does not eat pork. Aminata slips up at dinner and uses a proper English word (taught) instead of speaking in slave English (done teach) but instead of being reprimanded for this Lindo simply says “I could use a girl like you.” Later Aminata hears through the fishnet that Solomon Lindo had offered to purchase Aminata but Appleby refused because her abilities were too valuable.

One night in August Aminata and Chekura jumped the broom and were married so that their growing family would be bound together. Appleby didn’t allow his slaves to marry but by marrying allowed them to maintain an identity of their own. When Appleby returned to his plantation Aminata was six months pregnant and too full of pride to answer his questions regarding the child. Aminata makes the decision to disobey Appleby because:

[She] was from Bayo and [she] had a child growing inside  [her] and [she] would stand proud.

Appleby takes all of Aminata’s fancy clothes and headscarves from Chekura and throws them into the fire. He then shaves all of her hair off and humiliates her in front of her fellow slaves. Aminata, however, continues to talk back to Appleby. Appleby chooses not to beat her, but instead yells at her across the yard saying:

You don’t own that baby any more than you own the wool on your head. They both belong to me.

Aminata is sixteen when her son, Mamadu (named after her father) is born. Aminata has to begin working again after one week and takes great pride in being a mother. It takes two weeks for Chekura to be able to make it to the Appleby Plantation to meet his son. When Mamadu is ten months old, Aminata wakes up in the middle of the night to his crying and discovers that Appleby has sold him to someone. Watching her son stolen away from her into the night has a tremendous affect on Aminata, who does not work or eat for weeks before Appleby sold her to Solomon Lindo.

In the chapter, “The Shape of Africa” Aminata arrives in Charles Town with Solomon Lindo and discovers that Lindo and his wife are much kinder than Appleby, calling Aminata and their other slave, Dolly, servants, allowing Aminata to speak proper English and allowing them to self-hire. Lindo’s wife is also the first white person who knew Aminata’s name (Meena) before meeting her, this makes Aminata feel more comfortable with them already. Aminata meets Dolly, a pregnant servant who cooks for the Lindo’s, before being shown the most elaborate sleeping quarters that she had ever seen. Aminata didn’t like Charles Town, as it stuck of the dead, dying, rotting food, body odour and refuse. But working for the Lindo’s was the best life Aminata had had since being kidnapped in Africa and Aminata does not take this for granted, although she does grow used to her new way of life. Aminata continues to learn from Solomon Lindo about Africa, Islam, Judaism, mathematics and English. Aminata’s life consists of learning, delivering babies and working for Solomon Lindo and his wife. Aminata delivers Dolly’s baby, which reminds her of Mamadu, and soon after that Mrs. Lindo becomes pregnant and Aminata delivers their son, David, as well. Aminata is incredibly intelligent and notices that even though Lindo claims that Jews and Africans are not too different he still owns slaves, could come and go as he please and wore fine clothes. One day, Lindo takes Aminata to the library so that she can see what Africa looks like and where it is, but Aminata is disappointed that she cannot relate the map of Africa to anything realistic or within her memory.

Thirteen years pass before the chapter, “Words came late from a wet-nurse” in this chapter we learn that Georgia and Fomba have since died and that in 1774 a smallpox epidemic swept through Charles Town, killing Mrs. Lindo, Dolly and both of their sons. Aminata was not allowed to attend the shiva for Mrs. Lindo, which meant that she wasn’t able to give a proper goodbye. Solomon Lindo is devastated by the death of his wife and child and leaves Charles Town for New York to try and save the Carolina indigo industry amidst great economic suffering in Charles Town at the hands of the British. Solomon’s sister, Leah, moves into the house but makes no effort to provide anything for Aminata, which leads to her having to barter goods and services for food. While at the market one day, Aminata once again meets Chekura, who has been planting rice in Georgia, and is only in Charles Town for one night. From Chekura, Aminata learns that Mamadu died of the pox a year after being sold and that the sale of her child was arranged by “Lindo, the indigo jew.” When Lindo returns he has lost his job and is incredibly cruel to Aminata, she confronts him about selling her son and he admits to it. Weeks later, Aminata leaves with Lindo to New York City to argue for a final time for the indigo trade. Aminata refers to this as her exodus, hoping that she will never return to South Carolina.

Response

This reading, which is less than 100 pages, seems to have the most packed into it out of all the readings thus far. Aminata’s pride is both admirable and foolish. I believe that it is her pride that causes her son to be sold because Mamadu was not worth enough at the time for Appleby to try and sell him if it wasn’t to teach a lesson to Aminata. Aminata’s life in Charles Town seems incredibly good, she is consistently fed, treated with respect and able to learn and make her own money. This is a very large contrast to her life on Appleby’s plantation or even back in Bayo as at both of these places she acted entirely for other people in her life, never doing something for herself without punishment. The development of Solomon Lindo’s character is what stands out for me the most in this reading, especially in the Charles Town Library Society where, even after the other white men have left, he has Aminata fan him because he is hot. This, to me, shows his true colours – despite how kind he may be owning a slave allows him to have power over someone when all of Charles Town’s Anglicans have power over him. The internal struggle of Lindo between being kind and following the Torah, and joining the ranks of those who shun him is very well written and interesting to read.

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Book 2 Response Part 1 (Reading 2)

Book2

Pages 99-163

Summary

Book 2 begins with the chapter, “And my story waits like a restful beast“, Aminata is in London in 1803 and is meeting with the abolitionists to plan how they will address Parliament and the king regarding the issue of outlawing slavery in British Colonies. Aminata is told that they need:

… A human face for our fight…. A woman. An African. A liberated slave who has risen up, self-taught.

Aminata already knows that outlawing slavery will be an incredibly difficult task but she has already been forced to dedicate the majority of her life to slavery and is willing to put effort into ensuring that others do not have to face the hardships that she has faced. She also notes that despite the abolitionists needing her in order to win their case they do not treat her as an equal.

The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name and their ears do not yet hear my story.

Because the abolitionists do not listen to Aminata as she wishes they would, she dedicates much of her time to writing down her life story and muses about who may be the first person to read her book.

In the next chapter, “They call me an ‘African'”, Aminata and the rest of the survivors from the slave ship reach Sullivan Island in South Carolina where they are herded into barricades where they waited to be taken to the mainland to be sold. Fanta, Fomba, Chekura and Biton continue their typically social patterns and Aminata refuses to eat out of fear of eating pork and being a bad Muslim. As she physically withers away her mind begins to unravel as she realizes that she cannot pray to Allah in the way that her father taught her. The homelanders are put onto a boat and sail towards what is presumably Charles Town.  Once in Charles Town, Aminata encounters gross refuse and other foul sights in the city which scare her and make her feel less and less comfortable. Aminata and the rest of the slaves are  examined to be sold and Fanta makes quite the scene which shows Aminata just how cruel the toubabu can be.

After being examined Aminata walks for days without food or water towards what is presumably St Helena Island. Aminata continues to be humiliated by her treatment and loses faith in herself and in God until she encounters a heavily pregnant rabbit which has her mother’s eyes. This rabbit hops down the path in front of Aminata for some time, which helps Aminata regain some mental capacity. Aminata also tries to find someone from her land that speaks her language, which is a dramatic and fruitless search for some time until she sees a woman carrying her baby like a Bamana. This woman, Nyeba, helps Aminata keep in touch with her identity back in Africa. From Nyeba, Aminata also first learns about the fishnet, which is how the slaves share information with each other.

While crossing over to St Helena Island by canoe, Aminata meets a first-generation Carolina born slave who explains where they are going, what the fishnet is and what they are – Africans.

In the last chapter of this reading, “Words swim farther than a man can walk” Aminata arrives at Robinson Appleby’s indigo plantation on St Helena Island. It is here that Aminata meets Georgia, who acts like a mother figure to twelve-year-old Aminata. Georgia is unable to say Aminata – so it is from her that Aminata gets her new name, Meena.

In this new land, I was an African. In this new land, I had a different name, given by someone who didn’t even know me. A new name for the second life of a girl who survived the great river crossing.

Georgia teaches Aminata how to behave on the plantation, as well as teaching her Gullah – the language of the slaves, and English – the language that was to be used to talk to Master Appleby and the other ‘white people’ or buckra. Georgia says that these languages are never to be confused because the buckra were not to know a single word of Gullah. Aminata goes with Georgia to deliver babies at other plantations where her skills learned from her mother once again come in handy in staying alive. Georgia is also a medicine woman who uses natural remedies to help sick negroes live. Aminata purposefully contracts the pox from Georgia so that she can be immune to them later in life.

After recovering from the pox, Georgia warns Aminata that “she needs something to ugly her up”. Georgia repetitively warns Aminata that she is too smart and too beautiful because these things make Aminata more likely to be hurt, raped or killed. Soon after this, Aminata meets Master Appleby, he asks a series of questions about Aminata’s abilities as she is a “sensible n****r”.

Aminata continues to harvest the indigo for Master Appleby with Georgia and the rest of the slaves on the plantation. On the last day of the indigo harvest Aminata drops a sack of indigo mud – spoiling the entire batch. Mamed, a half-black overseer – grabs her arm and, without thinking, Aminata says Allahu Akbar, a forbidden prayer. Instead of beating her, Mamed says the prayer in return. Aminata becomes very close to Mamed, who teaches her how to read and other things about the world around her as long as Aminata does not let on that she knows these things. While Aminata is with Mamed, Chekura comes to visit Aminata.

The next year is similar to the last and punctuated with learning things with Mamed and visits with Chekura, who she becomes very close to romantically. Master Appleby notices Chekura’s monthly visits and brings Aminata into the big house where he conforts her about it. When Aminata denies the encounters Appleby rapes Aminata violently.

Response

The first half of the second book is, again, incredibly well written. Hill has a true gift in making even the mundane and awful linger in the reader’s mind long after reading. This reading is far more realistic, to me, than the first reading because Aminata begins to unravel mentally and physically after facing nearly a year of horror since being abducted from her village. This development of Aminata is what stands out most in the reading. Aminata does regain her signature spunk but the facts of her situation still weigh down on her mentally and this is seen in her actions and thoughts. While Aminata’s life on the plantation is horrible, especially what happens at the end of the reading, I was actually shocked at how well Aminata took it and made it into something that she could almost enjoy. I’m assuming that real life slavery was similarly horrible but still bearable because of one’s mindset. The development of the Gullah language and culture allowed the slaves to regain lost identity and to feel human. This mental state obviously led to the perseverance that caused so many slaves to marry, have children willingly, and, eventually, escape from the horrors of slavery itself.