History in the Making

Document Type



There is limited information on the life of the nineteenth century female slave with most details compiled from the narratives of well-known women such as Sojourner Truth. Professor Erlene Stetson and other historians argue that scholars treat slavery as a male phenomenon and the female is merely looked upon as a breeder, while noted African-American activist Angela Davis calls for a more accurate portrayal to debunk derogatory myths. This paper addresses the issue of image with the argument that the enslaved African-American woman possessed no image of her own. It focuses on the story of a runaway female slave named Margaret Garner, who chose to murder one of her children rather than return that child to the bonds of slavery. She gained international attention, but quickly disappeared from history. The story of Garner as a slave, fugitive, resistor and heroine were all images of one woman realized through the notion of others; her story required a twentieth-century author, Toni Morrison, to revive her memory. Image plays an important part in how people, places and events are regarded. A new wave of historians has ignited a revolution of study on the still developing image of the African- American female slave, with the goal of employing new methods of thinking and research to form coherent conclusions.