1 James, 2:1, 2:4, 2:9, The Holy Bible(INV),Zondervan, 2011.
2 “Phyllis Wheatley Biography,” Biography, accessed January 13, 2017, https://www.biography.com/people/phillis-wheatley-9528784.
3 Phyllis Wheatley, “On being brought from Africa to America,” in Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral(Gale ECCO, 1773), 18.
4 Wheatley, “On being brought from Africa to America,”, 18
7 “Harriet Jacobs,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed January 13, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harriet-Jacobs.
8 Harriet Ann Jacobs, “X. A Perilous Passage In The Slave Girl’s Life,” in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
( Thayer & Eldridge, 1861), 51.
9 Harriet Ann Jacobs, “VIII. What Slaves Are Taught To Think Of The North,” in Incidents in the Life of a Slave
Girl ( Thayer & Eldridge, 1861), 43.
10 Harriet Ann Jacobs, “XIII. The Church And Slavery,” in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl ( Thayer & Eldridge,
To sum up, both of the writers mentioned above wanted to speak up on the problem of racial discrimination and oppression which is against the God’s will. Phyllis Wheatley and Harriet Jacobs, who both were slaves, in their literary works wanted to present that it is unfair that they were considered “worse” or treated in an inhumane way just because they were black. They were humans too and both of them pointed out that God made all people equal, no worse, no better. Unfortunately many white people during these times did not understand that notion.
Another woman, who used her voice to address racial issues, was Harriet Ann Jacobs who lived almost a hundred years after Wheatley. She was also an African-American woman writer and a slave. Jacobs described her history in an autobiographical novel called “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.”7 In chapter Ten Jacobs states her disagreement with inequality: “…happy women, whose purity has been sheltered from childhood, who have been free to choose the objects of your affection, whose homes are protected by law, do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too severely!”8 According to Jacobs, white women have a great freedom in every aspect of life. The claim regarding racial segregation in the eyes of God appears in chapter Eight: “They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves. What a libel upon the heavenly Father, who ‘made of one blood all nations of men!”9 The writer clearly states that God created all people equal. God was not prejudiced and the authoress strongly highlights this. She also says that “Ole Satan’s church is here below; Up to God’s free church I hope to go.”10 Jacobs wanted to show that blacks are not heathens. They believe in God but due to the prejudice, they cannot be free to pursue their religion. She hopes that one day she will finally be free to be a real Christian with God by her side. She strongly points out that in the eyes of God all people are equal no matter what skin color they have.
Phillis Wheatley was the first African-American woman writer. She was born in Africa and was forced to go to the US to be a slave. The family for which she served, the Wheatleys, taught her how to read and write. Some of the most famous poems by Wheatley are “On being brought from Africa to America” and “To Maecenas.”2 In the first one, she tries to challenge racial prejudices. The first line of the poem begins with irony: “Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land.”3 “Mercy” is a positive thing that white people have done by bringing blacks into the civilized world. In the next two verses of the poem: “Taught my benighted soul to understand, / That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too”4, Wheatley, still using irony, highlights how thankful she is that whites have shown her, and all her race which is unenlightened according to white people, the existence of God. “Their colour is a diabolic die”5 – the poet directly points out the racial prejudice. The “colour” of African-Americans, according to the white people, is the worst, even “diabolic”. But the most important part of the poem is the last two lines: “Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, / May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.”6 This statement is clearly the punch line of the whole poem. It does not matter who the people are or what the color of their skin is, they all can be saved by God. In “On being brought from Africa to America” the author states that the Lord saves all humans. He does not choose only white people. Wheatley tries to tell the white community that “their” God is not prejudiced like them. For Him, every person is equal and from the beginning has the same chance and opportunity to be saved.
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. … Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?… But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”1 In these words, the Epistle of James stated that all people are equal and those who believe in God should not discriminate other human beings no matter who they are. Unfortunately, in the times when Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Jacobs lived these divine laws were not obeyed. These two poets were slaves and believed that it is not important who you are or what race you represent. Their beliefs were based on religion and their relationship with Lord. Religion was very important for both of them because they believed that God made all people equal. It meant that all people had the right to make their own decisions, to be free and to not be disrespected by others based on their social status.