English 9, Lesson 120 – Northup Vs Eliza When Separated From Their Children

This week I started reading Solomon Northup’s autobiography, Twelve Years a Slave.  Northup was a free black man who was drugged and kidnapped into slavery.  Today, I am going to compare Northup’s reaction to being separated from his children versus Eliza, a slave mother’s reaction to being separated from her children.

Before Northup was kidnapped, he was very skilled with the violin and was asked to perform for a travelling circus one day.  He agreed and went to the ‘circus’, but he did not inform his wife or children as they were out of town.  This was a mistake as the ‘circus’ was a guise.  He was kidnapped, drugged, and shipped off to New Orleans as a slave who had “escaped from Georgia.”  During the whole ordeal the only thing on his mind were his wife and children.   

Unlike most people, Northup was still hopeful that he would be able to escape.  He was determined to escape and thought in terms of when and not if.  He was thinking of when he would be able to see his wife and children again.  Northup knew that he was a freeman and kidnapping a freeman was illegal.  He was convinced he would get justice one day.

Before Northup was sold to a master, he was kept with other slaves, one of which was named Eliza.  She had two children, Randall, who was ten years old, and Emily, whose age was never specified.  We only know that she was much younger than her brother.  Northup talked of Emily’s beauty for such a small child.  She had fair skin and smooth, silky hair.

During the slave auction, Eliza had tried to be sold to the same owner as her children, but failed.  Randall was sold to one master, Eliza to another, and little Emily was to be kept at the auction house until she grew up a little more.   Eliza’s master had attempted to buy Emily as well, taking pity on the woman, but the auctioneer refused to sell Emily.  Northup described how this ordeal affected Eliza.  She was no longer sleeping or eating well and she was not taking care of herself.  He noted how she started to get skinnier and less healthy looking.   

How come Eliza reacted so differently from Northup?  The answer is quite simple. Eliza was a born slave.  Northup was kidnapped into slavery.  While Northup knew he had rights and was convinced that one day he would be able to use those rights to get out, Eliza had none.  She was born a slave and therefore had no rights. 

I believe that Eliza also knew in the back of her mind that her children may be sold to cruel masters.  She also knew that the possibility of seeing each other again was very slim.  Not impossible, but not very likely either.  She would not know which state they would be shipped to or what would happen to them. 

While Northup would not be able to know what his children were doing and where they were, he could sleep peacefully knowing that they were free and their mother would be able to take care of them.  Eliza did not have this luxury.  Therefore she worried herself sick (literally).

As you can see, even though it seems like Eliza and Northup were in the same position, they were not.  Northup knew that he would see his children again.  Eliza knew that she would never see her children again.  That is what makes her story so heart-breaking.

English 9, Lesson 115 – Did Thompson Provide Persuasive Evidence that South’s Slave System was Morally Evil?

This week I finished reading John Thompson’s autobiography.  Thompson was an escaped slave from the South and in his autobiography, he told his readers what it was like to live as a slave in the South.  In today’s essay I am going to answer the question, “Did Thompson provide enough evidence that the South’s slave system was morally evil?”

Thompson did not specifically say, word for word, that the South’s slave system was morally evil, but he gave enough evidence to prove it.

Example One

In the first few chapters of the book, Thompson talked about having his sister sent away.  I studied the Civil War a few years ago in History, and one of the things that disturbed me the most was how the slaves would be separated from their families and it was considered normal.  It was even more disturbing to see it from a slave’s point of view.  This is a personal belief of mine, but I think that families should stay as a unit and should not be broken up.  I feel that it is cruel to separate a family with no guarantee of them ever seeing one another again.

Example Two

Thompson described how harshly his masters would beat him and other slaves if they disobeyed.  He would also mention how many masters would beat their slaves for no reason besides entertainment.  Whether you were young or old, no slave was immune from the whippings.  Thompson recalled how one of his master’s young sons would come home from school and call all the young slave children to the yard.  He would order them to clean it, and while they did, he would whip them for no reason other than to see them bleed.  This is inhumane and evil.  The slave system not only bred racism, but also cruelty in white children and resentment in black children.

Example Three

Thompson escaped slavery as an adult with his friend.  He made it up North then out to sea because he still did not feel safe.  One of the things that deeply upset me was how Thompson did not die a free man.  Legally, he still belonged to the master he had escaped from.  You may be thinking that legal matters do not concern a slave once he has escaped and is on the open seas, right?  Yes, this is partly true, but can you imagine how Thompson felt?  He had to stay on the open seas if he wanted to remain free.  He could not go on land without the fear of being found, captured, and taken back down to the South again.  He died with the knowledge that he was legally owned by a man.  Can you imagine what it feels like to die knowing you were never free?  I find this completely and utterly evil.

Example Four

Slavery goes against everything that God has said.  God wants humans to start families and raise children.  The slavery system saw families as nothing but a source of more income.  God wants humans to worship and pray to Him.  Many masters would punish their slaves for worshipping God because it gave the slaves too much hope.  God wants humans to treat each other with kindness.  The slave system told people it was acceptable to whip a man as punishment.

Conclusion

As you can see, the South’s slavery system was horrible and morally evil.  In my personal opinion, nothing about the slave system was decent or acceptable.  I think everything about this type of slave system is morally evil and inhumane.

English 9, Lesson 110 – John Thompson’s Theory of the Relationship Between Sanctions and Slavery

For the past week I have been reading John Thompson’s autobiography.  Thompson was an escaped slave and his book is set in the pre-Civil War era.  In his book he describes his masters and how life was like for slaves.  While reading the book I noticed that he had a very interesting theory concerning the relationship between sanctions and slavery.  In this essay, I am going to talk about this theory and my opinion of it.

Thompson’s theory was that when a master gives a harsh punishment it does not make the slave ‘behave’, but instead makes the slave resist even more.  But when a master gives a slave light or no negative sanctions, the slave is cooperative and puts in 110% when working.

I think that everyone reading this can agree that this theory is true.  When I think about the theory it reminds me of raising children.

For example, when a child (or teenager) misbehaves and a parent punishes them harshly, they usually do not comply that easily.  In most cases, the child does the same thing again or something even worse in an act of rebellion. 

When you look at slavery, I think this is the same case.  According to Thompson’s book, a lot of slaves were whipped for no reason other than to entertain their masters.  This bred resentment and resistance in the slaves and they would not work as hard.  But masters that were kind to their slaves and treated them as actual humans and not objects to be used, had happier and hardworking slaves who actually loved and cared for their masters.

Thompson made it very clear that he hated slavery because he thought that the system was giving white people (specifically white men) too much power, creating tyrants and sadists.  Thompson did not exactly say this, but I got the impression that he would not mind being a slave if he was treated with kindness from his masters.  I think it is safe to say a lot of other slaves had the same feelings.

As you can see, Thompson had a very logical theory about how sanctions and slavery worked.  I think that his theory is completely true.  Like Jessica said in her essay “it’s a two-way street.”[i]  If slaves were treated well, they would treat their masters well.  But if slaves were treated poorly, they would treat their masters poorly.


[i] “Sanctions and Slavery – English”. Farm Kid’s Blog. 16 February 2018. Web. 27 September 2021. https://rpcfarmkid.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/sanctions-and-slavery-english/

English 9, Lesson 105 – How My Autobiography Will Be Different From Darwin’s

This week I finished Charles Darwin’s autobiography.  His autobiography was rather short (only eight chapters), making it possible for me to finish it in four days.  In this essay, I am going to talk about the things I would do in my autobiography that are different from Darwin’s.

The first thing I would change is the length of the book.  As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Darwin’s autobiography was only eight chapters long.  When I write my autobiography, I plan to make it a lot longer than eight chapters.  But I wonder if the original autobiography was longer than the one I read.  In the first few pages of the book Darwin’s son, Francis, informed the readers that the autobiography was originally written for his children and some parts of the book were removed for privacy purposes.  I am not sure how many private things Darwin may have added to the book, but it could contribute to why the book was so short.

Another thing Darwin did, that was slightly frustrating, was that he did not describe many important things that happened to him.  For example, his time in the Galapagos.  He did not take the time to write about or describe his experience there, but he did include the fact that he went there.  This left the reader wondering about what happened during this time.  Darwin also did not mention what caused him to suddenly become an atheist, though I can understand why he did not write about this topic.  It is a sensitive subject for some and he may not have wanted to share his opinion with others.  When I write my autobiography, I will be sure not to leave out too many details. 

Towards the end of the book, Darwin started to exclude the time periods of certain events making it hard for readers to understand what time period we were reading about.  In the first part of the book it was very easy to understand what year or decade we were in, but it started to become less clear towards the end.  That happened to be around the time Darwin started talking about his mysterious illness.  I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but it was certainly confusing for me to read.  For my autobiography, I will be sure to remember to include the dates of events I mention to avoid confusing my readers.

As you can see, I have learnt a lot from Darwin’s autobiography.  I think leaving out time periods is a very valuable lesson for me as I know I sometimes forget to specify when certain things happen. You can always learn from other people’s mistakes, and I have definitely learned from Darwin’s. 

English 9, Lesson 100 – Should I Include Reconstructed Speeches in My Autobiography?

This year in 9th Grade English, I have read seven autobiographies, with many more to come.  Almost all of them included reconstructed speeches the person either gave or heard.  From the other autobiographies I have read outside of this class, reconstructed speeches seem to be a common thing to add to an autobiography.  Does this mean I should add one in my autobiography as well?

If I write my autobiography now, as a 13 year old, I would not add reconstructed speeches into my autobiography for two reasons.  Reason one:  I have never had much patience to listen to speeches.  Only speeches with topics that really interest me would keep my attention.  As I have not come across (or searched for) speeches with interesting topics I would not have any speeches to include in my autobiography.   Reason two, when I come across the reconstructed speeches included in other people’s autobiographies I tend to get bored and skip through it, or only skim through the text.  In a past essay, I stated that I wanted my target audience to be teenagers my age, which leads me to assume that most children are like me and would not be too interested in reading a reconstructed speech.

However, if I wrote my autobiography as an adult, or even as a 20 year old, I would consider adding reconstructed speeches into my autobiography.  By the time I am 20 years old, I would assume that I have found and attended speeches that piqued my interest (most likely while in college) that would leave an impression in my mind.  If this is the case, it would be very easy and enjoyable for me to write about the speech while keeping the points accurate.

As you can see, speeches are not something that I would consider adding to my autobiography now.  But, if I start writing my autobiography as an adult, I will obviously not have to same mentality (and patience) as I have right now at the age of 13.

English 9, Lesson 95 – My Target Audience for My Autobiography

When you are writing a book you must always keep one question in mind: who is my target audience?  This question applies to any book whether it is a novel, history book, autobiography, etc.  In this essay, I am going to talk about my target audience for my autobiography.

If I write my autobiography now, at age 13, it will mainly be for children around my age.  I feel that children my age will be able to relate to my life more than adults.  Teenagers will understand what it is like growing up with constant access to the internet, as well as growing up in a Covid world.

Some adults may find it interesting to see the world from the perspective of a 13 year old, but I doubt it.  I hope that other teenagers will find my autobiography interesting and relatable.

Thanks for reading!

English 9, Lesson 90 – Benefits of Writing an Autobiography

For the last 90 lessons of the 9th Grade English course I have been reading and analysing autobiographies.  So far I have read Jim Lehrer’s, Helen Keller’s, Mark Twain’s, and Sergei Kourdakov’s autobiographies.  Now it is time for me to think about my own autobiography and a question arises: what benefits come from writing an autobiography?

In my opinion, I think people write autobiographies for four reasons: for their own enjoyment, so others can learn from their mistakes, to inspire people, and to leave a legacy behind.

Enjoyment

For me, I love to write and I find it fun, unlike some of my friends.  I do not doubt that the people who wrote autobiographies also liked to write.  When I was younger my Dad would tell me that people love to talk about themselves, and I think that this is the same for writing.  Who would not like to write about themselves?  Especially when they know that other people may read it.  Writing about your life, especially your childhood, will bring back old memories that you may have forgotten, or have not thought about in a long time.  Some people may enjoy looking back on their life and remember the adventures they had.

Educational

Your autobiography can also help other people.  You may have heard the saying “you learn from the mistakes of others,” or something around those lines.  Let’s say that you made a bad mistake a few years ago and you do not want others to make the same mistake.  Putting this incident into your autobiography, with ways to avoid this situation, can educate and help your readers from making the same mistake and landing themselves in an unfortunate position.

Inspiration

Not only can your autobiography educate your readers, you can also inspire them.  For example, Helen Keller’s story is definitely a very inspirational story.  When I was a young child she was one of my idols.  Her story shows that you can do anything if you put your heart into it, even if you are blind and deaf.  If you have an inspirational story with a moral, there is a high chance that your readers will be affected by it. 

A couple years ago I found an autobiography by a child actor who was on Broadway.  At the time I was only 11 years old and I was not a child who liked to read autobiographies for fun, but this certain one intrigued me.  I borrowed the book from the library and inhaled it in under a week.  The actor’s story was slightly sad, but very inspirational and enjoyable for me.  His story showed me that success is never impossible.

Legacy

In the 9th Grade English course, and the 9th Grade Business course, Dr North has mentioned leaving behind a legacy many times.  Before 9th Grade I never took the time to think about my legacy.  As I am only 13 years old I think I have plenty of time to figure out what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. 

For me, my legacy is not something that is important to me (yet).  But it occurred to me that for adults their legacy is something that matters to them.  For some people, their autobiography is their legacy, or is something that they want to be a part of their legacy.  Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to leave a legacy.  A book about your life, written by you, does seem like the most fun way to make your legacy.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many benefits to writing an autobiography.  I am sure there may be many other reasons, but these are the four that came to mind when I thought about it.

Thanks for reading!  

English 9, Lesson 85 – How I Can Make My Autobiography Less Disjointed Like Mark Twain’s

This week I started reading Mark Twain’s autobiography in English class.  While reading the book I made two observations.  One, each chapter is no longer than five pages.  The longest chapter (so far) was only three pages long.  Two, the stories in each chapter are very disjointed.  It was if Twain had ideas but did not take the time to sort them out.   In this essay I am going to talk about how I plan to make my autobiography less messy.

In Twain’s autobiography he wrote down memories in chronological order.  But none of them really connected together.  In Public Speaking class we learnt the importance of making one idea flow into another one when we write out speeches.  I think that this is also very important when writing a book.  I also felt that Twain was telling random stories.  While some were important moments of his life, others seemed irrelevant for readers.

When I write my autobiography I will find links between each idea/story so the book flows smoothly and the readers do not feel like they are reading a messy diary.  I will also take time to go through my thoughts and memories before I start writing.  I will only write about big/impactful moments in my life and not every funny or amusing memory I can think of. 

One way to help me do this is to keep a journal.  Humans obviously cannot remember each and every day of our lives.  Our minds would be very cluttered if we could do this.  Keeping a journal will not only give me something to reference back to, but it will also help me remember certain things or details I would have forgotten if I went by my memory alone.

My parents always say that you can learn from other peoples’ mistakes, and that is what I am going to do with my autobiography.  It was very smart of Mr. North to give us a disjointed autobiography to read.  Now all the students taking the 9th Grade English course will not make the same mistakes Twain did.   

English 9, Lesson 80 – Why Was Plunkitt so Open About His Money?


This week in English I finished reading George Washington Plunkitt’s ‘autobiography.’  In the last few chapters, Plunkitt talked about how he gained his wealth, calling his method ‘honest grafting.’  In this essay I am going to talk about why I think he was so open about how he earned his money.

First, let me explain what honest grafting is.  Honest grafting is when a politician jumps on any and every opportunity they find to make money.  In Plunkitt’s case he would buy things and sell them at an increased price.

An example given in the book was about “when an old brick road was being rebuilt, and the old bricks were being auctioned off. Plunkitt told the other bidders that if they did not bid, he would give them a portion of the bricks. So he bought the bricks for about 2 dollars and gave the other bidders their allotted portions. He could then sell the rest of the bricks and make a profit.”[i]

I personally think that Plunkitt was open about his money for three reasons: publicity, to prove he was not a crook, and he wanted to brag.

As a politician, publicity is a big thing.  If you portray yourself as a self-righteous person who is law abiding and caring, the people will love you and vote for you.  Plunkitt did a very good job of doing this.  In my last essay I mentioned how he was very connected to the people and was always helping them out.  By showing everyone how he made his money not only would he be creating talk around his name, he was showing the people how easy it is to make as much money as him.

Plunkitt was a very rich man, and many thought that he used illegal and unethical means to acquire his wealth.  By showing talking about his tactic to make money he showed the people and his enemies that he was an honest man.  Earlier in the book he said that he thought “The politician who steals is worse than thieves. He’s a fool.”

I also think that by showing people how he made money gave him bragging rights.  He explained and showed what he did and in a way, was subtly bragging about how much money he made because of how smart he was.  Before Plunkitt ‘honest grafting’ was not a thing.  In a way, he was considered the ‘creator’ of honest grafting.  If you Google honest grafting Plunkitt’s Wikipedia page is the first result.

As you can see, Plunkitt was quite proud of his new tactic to gain money.  Creating a brand new method of gaining money will definitely create a lot of talk around his name, as well as prove to his enemies that he was a law-abiding citizen.  I also think that a small part of him wanted bragging rights at dinner parties.


[i] Hussain, Sofia. “Plunkitt and His Money.” 26 May 2021. Web. Retrieved 12 August 2021. https://sofiarpc.home.blog/2021/05/26/english-1-lesson-80-plunkitt-and-his-money/

English 9, Lesson 75 – How Did Plunkitt Patriotism Connected to Tammany Winning the Election?

This week in English class I started reading George Washington Plunkitt’s autobiography (more like a biography that was anonymously published, but that is a different matter).  In the chapters that I have read so far it was very obvious that Plunkitt hated the civil service exam.  He thought it extinguished the patriotism of the people.  In this essay I am going to talk about how Plunkitt thought patriotism attributed to Tammany winning the election.

First, let me clarify what Tammany is.  When I first saw the name Tammany I thought it was a person, but it is actually a name of the political party Plunkitt was a part of.  The proper name of this party is Tammany Democrat.

During the time when the book was written (late 1800s) the civil service exam determined if a person would get into the army or not.  The exam was a lot like the exams we students take nowadays.  There would be math word problems and other academic subjects.  Plunkitt claimed he saw many men with undying loyalty to their country take the exam and fail, leading to the death of their patriotism.

When Plunkitt saw this he would find these young men and put them in any available job he thought they would be suitable for.  Plunkitt had a saying: “be at the fire before the firefighters.”  Judging by what the book said, Plunkitt was always looking out for the people.  He got up close and personal with each and every inhabitant of Manhattan.  He knew the name of every man, woman, and child.  He remembered their interests and likes.  If he knew of a person with a good arm he would invite them to join the town’s baseball team.  If he knew of a person who thought they had a good voice, he would be invited to the Glee Club at City Hall. 

In the book he said that he would give the children candy.  “They learnt that Uncle George coming meant candy.”  He claimed that one little girl “held on to her Father’s whiskers until he promised to vote for Plunkitt.”

The people got the impression that Plunkitt was always looking out for them.  This made people think that the Tammany party would bring prosperity to their country, causing them to vote for the party.

As you can see, Plunkitt knew that the people only wanted what was best for their country.  He knew that if he portrayed the hero looking out for the citizens he would get a good reputation for his party and convince the people that voting Tammany would help their country.  After all, who would not want their country to prosper?