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An Amazing Book Essay Research Paper Yolanda

An Amazing Book Essay, Research Paper

Yolanda Smith

Mr. Perkins

US. History

An Amazing Book

Been In The Storm So Long, written by Leon F. Litwack exposes the cruel, harsh,

and most disgusting attitudes of humans towards one another. This story is about the lives

of black slaves, slave owners, and the people fighting for freedom during the Civil War

and even after Emancipation. This story reveals the interactions between blacks and

whites and dramatizes their inner dependency on one another. It also divulges the tension

and friction between the two groups. After reading this short summery of Been In The

Storm So Long, I hope one can acknowledge the intentions of this book and perhaps give

one the desire to pick up this book and let the story take one to a place Americans tend to

keep hidden.

As the story begins, it talks about the changes in attitudes of the slaveholders. One

slave by the name of Robert Murray recalls how his ?white folks? started to change.

Murray was a young slave that had been treated fairly well and was even taught how to

read, even though it was against the law. Some of the children were even welcomed in

what was called the ?Big House? because the children found warmth there. With Abraham

Lincoln?s election as President, things changed for the slaves. The children were not

welcomed in the ?Big House? anymore. Robert Murray, along with the other slaves, felt

uneasy because he was being watched constantly. The slaveholders started to wonder how

the slaves continue their chores as if nothing was going on. Mary Chesnut, a South

Carolina slaveholder, wonders, ?Are they stolidy stupid or wiser than we are, silent and

strong, biding their time?(4). When the white males of all the plantations go off to war,

they think it will be an easy and short fight. One North Carolinian says, ?whup the North?

(5) as if he would be back in time for dinner. Needless to say, many of the white males do

not return and for those who are restored; it was in mangled bodies. Because many

fathers, brothers, and sons do not return, the women left at the plantations became cruel

and cold hearted. Mattie Curtis?s mistress whipped the slaves to the point of unbearable

pain when she received news on the death of her son. Master Charley hit a slave girl

named Missy with a ?hot poker? stick and then says, ?Free de niggers, will dey? I free

dem?(10), as he gets a gun and heads for the field. Annie Row, the slave girl witnessing

all this, ran and screamed because she had brothers and sisters in ?de field whar de niggers

am a-working? (10). The cruel and disgusted treatments did not halt; they continued and

expanded throughout the Civil War.

Even with the cruel and unspeakable treatment the slaves received, some of the

slaves were still faithful and loyal to their masters and mistresses. To ?play dumb? was

what most of the slaves did to protect their masters or mistresses from the Yankees. One

slave hid the family?s silverware and even struck his master?s children to keep the

Yankees distracted. The slave ?cried like a child? when the Yankees left because he did

not want to hit the children but felt it was necessary to protect the master?s family. One

group of slaves even humiliated themselves to keep their master, John Williams, from

being physically abused by the Yankees. The Yankees had order Williams to dance or

make his slaves dance. When he stood up and looked at the slaves, the slaves started to

dance. The soldiers were then happy and content, and no harm was done to Williams. One

of the dancing slaves said, ?We act lak we dancing for de Yankees, but we trying to please

Master and Mistress more than anything, and purty soon he begin to smile a little and we

all feel a lot better? (151). Many slaves lied that their owners were true Union patriots, but

could not show their patriotism because of the Confederates. While some of the slaves

were faithful and loyal, others were called betrayers by their owners.

As the war continued, slaveholders viewed their slaves as back stabbers. The

slaveholders could not realize why the slaves betrayed them when the slaves were

constantly given good care . Of course, the care administered was most of the time severe

beatings confused for discipline. One slave ran to a Yankee solider and told him a secret:

a secret of where there were two ?splendid? horses. The solider sat in awe wondering why

the slaved had ?betrayed his master?s prize possession,? and the soldier replied, ?You

ought to have more love for him to do such a thing.? The so-called ?good slaves? and the

?bad niggers? were becoming hard to distinguish. As a plantation owner left for war, he

placed in charge a slave whom was ?more as a companion than a slave? (155). The

faithful slave agreed to take care of the place. However; the first chance the slave got, he

fled. On another plantation, a slave woman who was treated as one of the family members

left at the first chance she got. This slave woman was born, raised, and even slept in the

same bed as the owner?s daughter. To the owner?s girl found this to be the ?most

troubling defection? (155). As a result, it was not only the slaves wore painful and

unforgettable scars, but slave owners also wore scars from all the slave betrayals which

continues after the war ends.

Even as the Civil War came to an end and the abolishment of slavery began, some

slaves left their masters and some stayed and earned wages. Chants of freedom rung

throughout the country as former slaves wondered what to with their lives. Many of the

former slaves continued to stay with their masters until the master confirmed their

freedom. A former slaves replied, ?No, sir; my mistress never said anything to me that I

was to have wages, nor yet that I was free;…. She ha?n?t spoke yet,?(185) when a reporter

asked if he got wages. Although former slaves are freed to work for wages, the abuse and

tragic deaths of former slaves still occurred.

The slave owners could not grasp the concept of their slaves being free. Some

slaveholders forced the former slaves to stay on their plantation; the only way out was

death. A Virginia planter asked his former slaves to stay on the plantation and when he

received a negative reply, he got a riffle and shot into the crowd of ex-slaves. Some of the

?terrorized blacks? were killed and others were wounded. These ex-slaves became slaves

for the plantation again because of the fear put before them. Another former slaveholder

gave a huge speech on how he knew they were free but he would like them to stay and

work his land like they always had. If the slaves stayed, it is not because they felt

threatened. The slaves believed since they contributed to the land the most and they out

numbered the owner they now owned the land.

Several slaves thought the land belonged to them because they were born, raised,

and worked on a plantation for many years. When a South Carolinian former slave owner

returned, he found his servants in his house continuing their regular duties. The former

master thought all was well until one ex-slave replied, ?We own this land now. Put it out

of your head that it will ever be yours again? (206). When a former slave owner told his

ex-slaves that he wanted them to keep up his land, the slaves said with a smile, ? We ain?

gwine nowhar… whar we wuz bo?n an? whar belongs tuh us? (208). Since the former

slave owners were angry over the slaves? freedom and for their demand of ownership of the

land the slaves bleed over, the friction and tension between the two escalated even more.

The freed slaves thought because of their freedom they had rights as do the ?white

folks,? unfortunately, the never ending fight to be equal continued. Since blacks were not

taught how to read or write, they seldomly achieved other skills than that of a salve.

Because the slaves only knew of servant work, they felt that the whites still looked at them

as salves. The ?freed blacks? wondered how they could succeed in a society dominated by

white men and women. This feeling grants the ex-slaves the impression that they were

still placed beneath the whites. A young Virginia servant realized ?that to be free was not

to be like everyone else? (224). Like many other former slaves, she perceived that a person

was only something in America if you were white. With all the hate and spite caused by

the abuse from blacks and whites to one another, both ?now need to unlearn the old

relationship? (337).

With dignity and pride, former slaves began to start their new lives as free men and

women. A convention was held for the rewriting of the Constitution so it would include

blacks as equals to the whites. The former slaves tried to make peace with the whites and

hoped for unification of the two. At the Convention of Colored People, the delegates,

former slaves, stated, ?We have not come together in battle array to assume a boastful

attitude and to talk loudly of high- sounding principles,… still we come together, we trust,

in a spirit of meekness and of patriotic good-will toward all the people of the State? (515).

After experiencing massive sufferings during the war to protect their masters, the

ex-slaves? loyalties were disputed. Evidently, the ex-slaves? memories of the immense

sacrifices they made for their ex-master during the Civil War truly displays their loyalty.

Overcoming all the threats and economic duress, blacks started to vote in the elections,

thus showing their first exercise of political power. To the slaves, dropping their ballot in

the box was a statement that anything was possible. Despite the cruel, harsh, and

disgusting attitudes between the blacks and the whites, there was hope.

It is evident page after page in Been In The Storm So Long, the cruel, harsh, and

disgusted attitudes were displayed in both slaves and slaveholders. Although freedom was

sought out, it was a never ending battle due to the lack of cooperation from neither sides.

The blacks and whites could not interact with one another in a manner that was

desperately needed in the hopes of ending the friction and tension between the two. After

all, black or white, we are all humans.

Leon F. Litwack, author of Been In The Storm So Long, was born in Santa Barbra,

California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his

B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. He is currently Professor of History at this university. Other

universities he has taught at are University of Wisconsin, South Carolina, and at Colorado

College. Litwack has held the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Distinguished Teaching Award,

and a National Endowment for the Humanities Film Grant. His latest book is the Trouble

in Mind.

Tears rolled down my face through out Been In The Storm So Long. It brought to

my attention the cruel and unbearable treatment that one human being could give to

another. I had to pause to keep the nausea down after reading a part in the book where a

slave recalls her master grabbing a gun to shoot all the slaves in the field. It only gave me

a weary feeling when the slave said, ?we?uns starts runnin? and screamin?,?cause we?uns

has brothers and sisters in de fild? (10). I imagined those brothers and sisters as young

children at the age of nine and ten. I was angered on how one human believed they could

own another human. To who in the world gave them the right to think that. I was

disgusted. This book lead me on a journey that I believe all Americans should read about.

To me, it was a disgrace to belong to such a country in which slavery existed.

Been In The Storm Long is a tremendous assist to our learning about our history and in

hopes of not making the same mistake twice.