Black Odyssey: the Ordeal of Slavery in America: Review

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Submitted By booger2000
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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 well as on the black American historiographical tradition of examining and celebrating what, in the title of a famous work, W. E. B. Du Bois called 'The Souls of Black Folk'. There are also echoes in this journal of a concept that stretches back into the nineteenth century, and whose most distinguished advocate was the great Liberian scholar and proto-Pan-Africanist E. W. Blyden. This is the belief that black people have unique spiritual and artistic talents, through which they can redeem not only themselves, but also the materialistically successful but spiritually deprived white peoples. While avoiding the racial basis of Blyden's thought, Professor Huggins seems to incline to this view. He portrays a world of black slaves who were not merely deprived of material opportunities and incentives by their circumstances, but also whose cultural heritage from Africa did not concern itself with such matters as profit, commerce and capital accumulation.
This view of 'traditional' Africa is highly disputable. For Huggins, the eighteenth-century African arriving in America was a person 'from a traditional and static order'. Though warning…...

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