By Donald A. Petesch
Booklet by means of Petesch, Donald A.
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Extra resources for A Spy in the Enemy's Country: The Emergence of Modern Black Literature
5 This approach to the American experience, with its overtones of the promotional mode, sounds clearly in the text of Crèvecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer (1782): "Here are no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one, no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great refinements of luxury. The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe.... We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and unrestrained because each person works for himself....
Thoreau had three chairs in his cabin, "one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society";15 Douglass had over forty scholars in his illegal Sabbath school: The work of instructing my dear fellow-slaves was the sweetest engagement with which I was ever blessed. We loved each other, and to leave them at the close of the Sabbath was a severe cross indeed.... For the ease with which I passed the year, I was, however, somewhat indebted to the society of my fellow-slaves. They were noble souls; they not only possessed loving hearts, but brave ones.
A Garrison might praise a Douglass's "noble thoughts," but the capacity for such utterances, if it is to be measured by white response to black expression, seems largely to have died out once "freedom" was achieved. The Celebratory Mode and the Perception of Difference The nineteenth century was not a century to cherish difference. However, one result of the black experience, in both slavery and "freedom," was to make blacks terribly conscious that they were, if anything, their difference. But where was the audience for difference Page 13 in a growing nation, one of whose principal claims to the world was that of the elimination of difference?