Climbing Into Their Skin: A Study Of The Writings Of Olaudah Equiano And Phillis Wheatley
The slave exchange was a significant part of the world’s economy during the eighteenth century. A large number of Africans were being sold for money, and many Americans tried to justify this by using the Bible. One of the verses used to justify slavery was Ephesians 6:5-7. This says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” In this verse, these liars used the Bible to falsely-accuse the Bible of supporting slavery. Another verse used to support slavery was Philemon 1: 12. In this verse Paul is returning a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master. Lastly, in Genesis 21: 9-10, Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval. They used these circumstances and many verses in the Bible to justify slavery. This was not the right aspect of slavery. The Bible calls us to love everybody equally and be kind to them.
Olaudah Equiano ended up as one of the kids grabbed and sold in the underground market as a slave. Equiano was about eleven when he was kidnapped and sold into slave trade. In Olaudah Equiano’s life, he had many troubles and many doubts but he never stopped loving Jesus Christ. While he was on the ship he had very little hope of escaping. He had hoped for death and had very little faith. He found himself observing many instances of cruelty on the ship. He recalls one instance saying, “One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast, that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner.” This is showing us that Equiano feared the white man and did not want to get flogged. Because he had this fear he treated the white men with respect and kindness even when they did not do the same back. Although he had this fear and respect the white men still treated him poorly. He says, “I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands, and laid me across I think the windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely.” He was flogged by the men and treated very poorly. At many points he thought of suicide, but knew not to do it. He said, “and besides, the crew used to watch us very closely who were not chained down to the decks, lest we should leap into the water: and I have seen some of these poor African prisoners most severely cut for attempting to do so…” He wanted to die but he did not want to get flogged for attempting to do so.
Out of these two authors Phillis Wheatley had the most Biblical view of race in my opinion. Phillis Wheatley was an African-American poet and slave. She wrote poems on many subjects such as religion and moral aspects. In the poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America” Wheatley seems to be happy to have been brought to America. She says she was brought from Africa (the ’pagan land’) to America, which introduced her to Christianity. Christianity has brought her peace and salvation, which she didn’t even know she needed. She followed the Bible and was a devout Christian. She wrote about revelation, the characteristics of God, biblical authority, redemption, the image of God, the wickedness of man, and the need for a righteous Savior like Jesus. Using these things she also wrote against American Christians who preached that the Bible justified slavery, showing them the false concept of defending slavery using Christ’s teachings.
Phillis Wheatley had a better Biblical view of race than Olaudah Equiano because she . Olaudah Equinao struggled at talking about the deeper meaning of things. He would touch on Biblical points but wouldn’t base his thoughts and deeper things. “On Being Brought from Africa to America” portrayed Phillis Wheatley’s thoughts of race very well. It showed how she depicted race and helped us picture how she truly felt. To this day Wheatley’s thoughts have a great effect on society. Phillis Wheatley used her poetry to fight against the inequality encouraged by slavery. Her poetry was seen as a threat to the style of society. However, anti-slavery believers were beginning to use Wheatley to prove that no race was superior to another. Through this we see that Phillis Wheatley had a great effect on American society and helps us have a Christian viewpoint on race.
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