Literary Style, or Historical Accuracy


"In this situation creative writing becomes, for me, a guerrilla activity." -- Merle Hodge

A people's idea of reality, history, and even self-worth are all impacted by the books they read. Books containing history teach people the past; fictional stories influence people's perception of society and morals. This is particularly important for colonized peoples. The books colonizers have saturated colonized cultures with--both historical and fictional--impact colonized peoples' beliefs about themselves. Also, the books colonized people write often work to counter ideals which have been imposed upon them by colonizers.

In his book The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon recognizes the way in which colonizers usurp the history of the colonized. He states, "Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native's brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it. This work of devaluing pre-colonial history takes on a dialectical significance today."1 This illuminates the importance of a past independent from the colonizers for colonized people.

Because of this need of an independent past--and independent identity--testimonial literature becomes an effective source for colonized people to voice their independence. These testimonials often run counter to the dominant (the colonizer's) perspective. They are a way of telling the truth back to the empire, rather than accepting all truth from the empire--colonized people are forced to tell their own truth, because society has previously fooled them. Slave narratives, Native American testimonials, radical histories, and other counter-histories and counter-novels are all means by which people speak back to the system that dominates them.

Because of the importance of books to history, and because of their connection to people's identities, it is interesting to examine both historical books and literary works that project counter-opinions to the dominant system. Many similarities as well as differences can be found between historical and fictional books. In a book review of All Souls' Rising, a new history of the Haitian Revolution, Malick Ghachem says that "historical and literary impulses have always been closely related," and he is exactly right. Every book is intended to impact its audience in a particular way. This is true for nonfiction as well as fiction, and this fact is often forgotten by readers. People always learn to not believe everything they hear, but many still believe that everything written in a book is a concrete fact (note1).


Fighting for Freedom: Olaudah Equiano as Ex-Slave, Author, and Abolitionist

Being a survivor of the slave trade, an assimilated Afro-British man, a converted Christian, and thus outside of the slave society that molded him, Olaudah Equiano is left with a confusing and difficult choice. He has to decide what to do about slavery and white Anglo-Christian customs towards Africans--both slaves and free blacks. He also has to do this within British culture. Writing an autobiographical novel is the step he decides to take, and the book's influence can readily be seen in a number of literary works and genres still today. As well as being pertinent to the evolution of literatury genres, it stands also as an historical account, and as an influential political and social reform work by encouraging the coming emancipation of the slaves.

Creating an autobiography established Equiano first as a literary artist. Perhaps more importantly, it established him as a "civilized," English speaking, and Christian literary artist. One of the first Africans writing in English, he created an autobiography, rather than simply wrote one. With his reformative intent for his narrative, his confusing amalgamation of culture and upbringing, and the intended British audience to hear his reformative cry, his best bet to reach this audience was mostly by means with which they were familiar: British means. Because of this, his autobiography was artistically influenced and shaped by many existing literary genres which had quite distinct structures and characteristics. Autobiography was already a popular British literary genre, and Equiano utilized this particular genre to achieve his political goals. Spiritual autobiographies and captivity narratives also influenced Equiano, and he helped to mold the genre of slave narratives.

Equiano's narrative, as many slave narratives, correlates with spiritual autobiographies because both genres follow a similar plot progression. While spiritual autobiographies follow the path of sin, conversion, and rebirth, slave narratives follow the mold of slavery, escape, and freedom. The parts of each genre not only match each other, but Equiano uses both these aspects throughout his book; as well as escaping slavery, he also struggles with Christianity and undergoes a spiritual rebirth. Angelo Costanzo makes the point that "Equiano adapted the autobiographical form to his invention of the slave narrative." (note2)

Equiano's novel is obviously influenced by other literature as well. The detailed accounts of his adventures are reminiscent of picaresque adventures and action-adventure novels (note3). Many comparisons are made between him and Daniel Defoe (note4). Also, one can find similarities between Equiano's book and American captivity narratives. The interesting difference is that in Equiano's case, he turns the scales, and the whites are the captors. Thomas Doherty makes the observation in his article, "Olaudah Equiano's Journeys: The geography of a slave narrative," that "Equiano forced a confrontation with another perspective and coaxed a realignment of instinctive allegiances," on his audience.2 The whites are the savages. Since Equiano pushed this new perspective on his audience, this reminds us of his political intents, which again raises the question of whether his book is more historical or more literary.

The fact that his Interesting Narrative contains concrete historical facts doesn't automatically define Equiano's book as an account of history. Doherty hails Equiano's as "the most reliable and articulate testimony" of the Atlantic Slave trade's Middle Passage, because it "is not a report from the captain's quarters or an oral recollection coaxed from an aged freeman."3 It undoubtedly portrays parts of his life and history accurately, but what brings into question the historical truthfulness of his book is its political intentions as revealed by its intended audience, and its connection to many pre-existing literary genres--mainly British influenced.

With the use of both literature and history, Equiano undoubtedly utilizes his manipulation of the audience's emotions while referring to historical matters, thus mixing literary style and historical accuracy. Doherty, exemplifying this, claims that "for enlightened readers of the eighteenth century the typeset word was holy writ."4 Equiano uses this to his advantage. His book can still have the desired effect of encouraging the emancipation of the slaves whether it is entirely true or not because he had the power to select the information he presented. In doing this, Equiano was both influenced by existing literature, and a huge influence on literature to come; the same came to be true with historical literature.

Claiming History: CLR James as Historian

While Equiano's political and emotive intents illustrate the idea that he is offering an amalgamation of history and literature, CLR James' book, The Black Jacobins, which is an historical account of the Haitian Revolution, also utilzes obvious literary techniques throughout. James undoubtedly uses historical sources and documents them properly, but the structure of the book and the fact that it reads like a story lead one to question its authenticity. James realizes that he utilizes literary techniques in his telling of a true story, and claims that "the traditionally famous historians have been more artist than scientist: they wrote so well because they saw so little" (note5). While this lends a little light to the idea that his history may have been presented in a somewhat skewed view, he knows this, and readily admits that the concluding pages "were intended to stimulate the coming emancipation of Africa."5

Another hint at the literary leanings of James comes straight from himself: "I arrived in England intending to make my way in the world as a writer of fiction, but the world went political and I went with it."6 Moreover, The Black Jacobins initially appeared in 1936 as a play, which leads readers to draw connections between the book and traditional drama--including a "traditional 'literary hero'" (note6). Even when in novel or historical essay form, the Black Jacobins still exhibits many traits of a tragedy. Toussaint L'Ouverture, the "hero" of the Haitian Revolution, meets tragic ends. As Malick Ghachem notices in his book review for All Souls Rising, L'Ouverture comes to these ends by possessing a typical Aristotelian flaw.

With the original intent to be a fiction writer, and so many blatant literary impulses, one might guess that James had more than historical intentions in mind when he wrote The Black Jacobins. Once James admits his intent, it becomes clearer still that he sees that the writing of history not only shapes history as people know it, but also influences history to come; he believes his work will prompt impending African emancipation. So, just as Equiano utilizes both history and fictional story-telling techniques, James does too, because they are both striving to impact their audiences passionately and seriously. They are both submitting forms of testimonials--legitimizing the strife of the underdogs, and encouraging the forthcoming emancipation of their people.

Counter-History: Howard Zinn as Historian

Howard Zinn recognizes the power of the written word as well. As evinced on the audience page, he chooses specific perspectives from which to look at history. This is largely because Zinn recognizes that although selection, simplification, and emphasis are inevitable for historians, their distortions are not purely technical, but ideological as well (note7).7

Zinn also recognizes that historic accounts influence the future (or, as referred to when examining James, "history to come"). He hopes that the "future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than its solid centuries of warfare."8 Zinn's book is therefore inherently very tricky; it is extremely selective, and biased in favor of the underdogs. Zinn not only understands, but capitalizes on the fact that history is written with motives--that "it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual."9 With this in mind, he explores history from aspects that question people's acceptance of traditional nationalistic history by presenting others' perspectives. So, in effect, Zinn is doing exactly what other historians have done, but for different people; Zinn is presenting a counter-history to the dominant idea of American history.

He takes a standpoint opposite in ideology to capitalistic historians who previously have taken the standpoint that economic times were glorious, even though there were masses of struggling proletariats who would doubtlessly have disagreed. Zinn sees that there are too many differences between people for them to have a homogenous view of history, so he chooses to enact the ideology of something he once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is."10 So, by rewriting history from different perspectives, Zinn is challenging the dominance of the American history most children are taught in school.

The Power of Fiction: Merle Hodge and Changing the World

In Crick Crack, Monkey, Tee, claims to have a "double" when she gets heavily into reading. Helen, her double, comes into existence when she begins to appropriate European culture. Helen "spent summer holidays at the sea-side with her aunt and uncle who had a delightful orchard with apple trees and pear trees in which sang chaffinches and blue tits;" she "loved to visit her Granny for then they sat by the fireside and had tea with delicious scones and home-made strawberry jam." Tee thought, "She was the proper me."11 Helen is the epitome of a European girl portrayed in European novels, and Tee tries to act like her until Tantie tells her not to wear her socks to the store unless she wants to start doing her own laundry.

Tee thought "books transported you always into Reality and Rightness, which were to be found Abroad."12 This is evidence of the influence that books have over young minds. Because of this influence, it is important to Merle Hodge to build an original body of Caribbean literature. During the colonial era, Tinidadians were forced to study British literature, and "television, which is basically American television, came to Trinidad and Tobago in 1962, the year the British flag was pulled down."13 Being so saturated with foreign influences, it is difficult for Trinidadians to see themselves as anything but what foreigners see them as. This saturation, coupled with the lack of fiction that affirms and validates the Caribbean, leave these formerly colonized people with little definition of a self-image.

Hodge recognizes the political power of fiction to be quite similar to that of history. She believes "its power can be revolutionary or, of course, the opposite: it is a prime weapon of political conservatism."14 The recent past in Trinidad has been so dedicated to politically conservative fiction that Hodge wants to create an original Caribbean literature. Because of social differences from European society, most lives in Trinidad "do not fit the storybook prescription," and this attempted limitation has profoundly furthered the damage of a society already split between two histories.15

According to Hodge, fiction validates reality by drawing on the world and allowing people to take it seriously. "The storyteller offers a vision of the world which is more coherent, more 'readable,' than the mass of unconnected detail of everyday experience."16 Because of this ability to create order out of chaos, and the mental impact of fiction on societies, Hodge longs to utilize Caribbean fiction "to strengthen our self-image, our resistance to foreign domination, our sense of the oneness of the Caribbean and our willingness to put our energies into the building of the Caribbean nation."17 Therefore, Hodge sees her literature not only as counter to the dominant culture, but as a way to make her culture--which is the culture of Trinidad--the dominant culture.

Rewriting history: Michelle Cliff and the Counter-Novel

The power of the novel is incredible in the formation of the cultural mentality of a nation. In her essay, "Challenges of the Struggle for Sovereignty: Changing the World versus Writing Stories," Merle Hodge explores just how much political power novels have. The leading power of books in colonial settings is to subjugate the colonized cultures. Hodge claims "the proper role of fiction in human societies includes allowing a people to 'read' itself--to decipher its own reality."18 The most important distinction between this proper role and the role that has been assigned to fiction in colonized cultures is the idea of allowing the people to "read" themselves. Just as Frantz Fanon suggests, the colonizer is not satisfied with simply controlling people, they must manipulate the history of the colonized as well. This can take the form of simply erasing the indigenous history, rewriting it, or forcing the colonized to adopt the history of the colonizer.

The idea of the colonizer usurping the history of the colonized has always been present; the idea of assimilation requires people to not only adopt the social norms of the dominant culture, but to adopt their history as well. This idea is exemplified clearly by the education that Clare Savage receives in No Telephone to Heaven. She attends all English and American schools, and then even goes to London for college. She is obviously learning the colonizer's history rather than the history of Jamaica. She only learns the history of Jamaica when she finally returns to the island and begins reading and writing history and teaching children the history of their "homeland." Once she returns to the island, she educates herself by speaking with old people and searching through the archives and the library; she studies "the conch knife excavated at the Arawak site in White Marl…the shards of hand-thrown pots…the petroglyphs hidden in the bush." She has also listened to stories of duppies (ghosts), religions, and explored ruins of plantations. She even discovers that "some history is only underwater."19

The real history of Jamaica has been so far buried because of colonization that much of its history can now only be found "under water." This raises the question of "real" history, just like it has been raised for Equiano, James, Zinn, and Hodge. History is a matter of perspective, but even more than this, it is a matter of individuals recognizing its personal relevance. The way in which one learns history affects that person as much as what history they learn.

The English and American film crew at the end of No Telephone to Heaven is filming a "documentary" about the Windward Maroons and their leader, Nanny. In this Hollywood "documentary," a black lady they brought in "whenever someone was needed to play a black heroine, any black heroine," was going to portray Nanny, "whom one book described as an old black woman naked except for a necklace made from the teeth of whitemen."20 Cudjoe, actually small and humpbacked, was to be portrayed by a star athlete.

Also in this documentary, they used De Watchman, now a bum, to portray the Forest God. Got up in a suit of red hair, his role was to howl like something that was "not human." Obviously, this is a Hollywood production, and not a documentary (note8). The idea of docudrama--like JFK--seems a likely correlation, but attempting to pass productions off as truth is specifically the kind of thing that colonizers do to colonized peoples. This is, in a way, the original counter-history of Jamaica, and this original one is the reason that contemporary counter-histories need to be written: to erase the lies of the colonizer's counter-histories. By changing the indigenous history of a people, the colonizers cause that indigenous history to seem inherently bad, and thereby make the history of the colonizer seem better. The effect of this manipulation of history can be seen in Clare's alienation and search for a sense of belonging. Nada Elia examines how Clare's "colonial education left her ignorant of her own people's history and achievements, resulting in her belief in her cultural inferiority" (note9).21

All this is even more interesting and brought full circle when it is recalled that Cliff received her Bachelor's degree not in English, but in history. As quoted in Nada Elia's Dances, Trances, and Vociferations, Cliff states, "I started out as an historian. I've always been struck by the misrepresentation of history and have tried to correct received versions of history, especially the history of resistance."22 This reinforces the importance of the question of how historical her books are. Perhaps some "fiction" is more historically correct than some historical accounts and some documentaries (note10). Cliff certainly does her homework on the subjects she is writing about. For her latest novel, Free Enterprise, she researched the lives of Mary Ellen Pleasant, Mary Shadd Carey, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Annie Christmas in the archives of San Francisco, eastern Massachusetts, and New Orleans. The novel interweaves the past and the present, as well as the fictional and historical, but is undeniably at least partly true, and therefore, in a way, a rewriting of history--a counter novel.

Cliff combines truth with fiction as Equiano, James, Zinn, and Hodge do, in order to achieve specific desired effects. The purpose of this is to reclaim the history of oneself, and one's culture. Because colonized peoples' cultures have been so manipulated and changed by colonizers, it is necessary for them to rebuild their culture and cultural heritage. This means redefining their own history and the history of their culture, as well as creating new cultures for themselves and their societies by means such as art and literature.


1. Truth or Fiction?

To try to understand this idea, one might liken it to a comparison between movie genres such as docudramas and documentaries. An example of a docudrama is Oliver Stone's JFK. (Even though this is not directly related to postcolonialism, JFK is a sort of counter-history, because it goes against the grain of the dominant account of what happened to JFK.) A film like JFK draws on historical events and aspects to make it seem more realistic, while documentaries utilize only reliable historical material. The literary genre of historical fiction is similar to docudramas in that historical fiction books draw on real historical events and aspects to enhance their realistic quality. History books, on the other hand, are supposed to be restricted to only reliable, often primary, historical sources.

The distinction between either of the two genres is blurred when one thinks that a main idea behind most fiction is to make it seem as realistic as possible. This is part of what makes historical fiction and docudramas so popular--seeming realness. A clear distinction one can make, however, is the use of primary sources, rather than, say, tertiary, or even imaginary, sources. This is a clear distinction, but when history is examined from many different angles, it seems that one event can have almost limitless interpretations and explanations. It then follows that even primary sources may dissagree.

With enough information to choose from, a historian, just like an author, can pick through and plan which information to present to the audience, as well as how to present it. This optimum selection of information by the creator gives him ultimate control over the observer, especially when the idea being presented is new to the person on the receiving end. Sometimes there can be a thin line between propaganda and documentation, especially when such emotive means are used as films or books. Let us not forget that documentary is a genre, just as docudrama is, and history books are written by authors, just like science fiction, history, and other books. True, these genres have their own rules, but each still offers all the tools of either medium for the creators to utilize in the presentation of material.


Equiano's autobiography not only represents spiritual autobiographies, but is quite similar to other autobiographies as well. While Equiano was working on his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin was working on his own, and their autobiographies bear striking resemblance in some ways. Angelo Costanzo mentions that they both use self-ironic humor, and both portray themselves as the picaro figure. In his article, "Olaudah Equiano's journeys: The geography of a slave narrative," Thomas Doherty examines the fact that both Franklin and Equiano portray themselves as self-made men. Each is "resourceful, pragmatic, print-oriented, always on the lookout for a likely scam or fast buck."23 Bonnie Schreiber examines the American myth of the self-made man, and whether Equiano played a role in furthering this myth, in The Boundaries of Freedom.

Also, just to throw another idea into the mix, keep in mind that Equiano influenced literature to come as well. The autobiographical form and style has impacted literature to the present day. Autobiographical writing aided the abolitionist movement, and carried over to influence the Civil Rights Movement as well. Autobiographical writing notably influences black literature. Authors like James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison, just to name a few, use the personal narrative in a creative way. They all portray the ostracised individual; Baldwin was an expatriate, Wright was a black boy, and Ellison was simply invisible. This ostracized individual is writing back to the empire, and exemplifies the continued use of autobiography as a political tool. Dick Gregory's autobiography, Nigger, was part of the autobiographical genre, and as much political commentary as it was about his life, and as serious as it was funny. Furthermore, authors like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier write autobiographies that come to be present day captivity narratives.

3.Picaresque Novels:

The picaresque influence on Equiano's autobiography raise many more interesting literary ideas. For one, the picaro is often utilized to elucidate his surroundings. As a picaresque novel is episodic, it step by step reveals the world in which the picaro resides. This is interesting in Equiano's case because one of his intents is always to reveal the inequity of white men. The picaro is also usually a character struggling for survival, which leads him to wander and escape to where he can, often leading to another exciting episode. This seeming lack of control the picaro has on his life lends itself to the feeling of predestination Equiano repeatedly experiences, because one whose life is predestined has no control over his life either.

4.Equiano and Defoe:

This connection is interesting because Equiano is striving to eliminate slavery, while Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe, is about civilizing and colonizing the world. Nor are Equiano's similarities limited literary action and adventure; in Tropicopolitans, Srinivas Aravamudan discusses similarities between the two, and incorporates Equiano's life events. He explores Equiano's relations to Christianity, capitalism, and colonialism. Equiano, after being freed, joined the British forces trying to "civilize" Sierra Leone.24


5. Stimulate Emancipation:

This sentence is followed by this: "To-day by a natural reaction we tend to a personification of the social forces, great men being merely or nearly instruments in the hands of economic destiny. As so often the truth does not lie in between. Great men make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make. Their freedom of achievement is limited by the necessities of their environment. To portray the limits of those necessities and the realisation, complete or partial, of all possibilities, that is the true business of the historian." What also seems the business of the historian to me as well (just me now, not necessarily James), is the part about great men making history. Only, I see two interpretations: the interpretation he has about the heroes limitations, and, one similar to Zinn's, the idea that great men make history, but which men? Is it the heroes involved in, or the authors of that history?

6. Literary Hero:

These ideas are examined further by Malick Ghachem in his book review fo All Souls Rising. He also sites many interesting articles and books throughout the review, which might be of interest in relation to similar topics, like The Black Jacobins' likeness to Aristotelian tragedy.

7. Ideological:

Zinn goes further on page 8 to make interesting comparisons between a cartographer and a historian in that they both have to make distortions. He distinguishes between them by claiming the cartographer's distortion is a technical necessity, while the historian's is ideological. He also elucidates the difference that mapmakers interests are overtly expressed, not covertly, because they are labeled as a certain kind of map. He gives the example that a Mercator projection is for long-range navigation. He then explains that most historians don't intentionally disguise the fact that their views are biased, but they have "been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations."25 By the way, if you don't like Howard Zinn's book, you should just ask Matt Damon, as Will Hunting, what books he thinks are really good.


I would like to take this opportunity to quote Big Daddy Kane's verse of "Burn Hollywood Burn" by Public Enemy, which displays Hollywood's portrayal of blacks and Spike Lee's role as a counter-culture cinematographer, which is similar to Michelle Cliff's role as a counter-culture novelist/historian:

As I walk the streets of Hollywood Boulevard / thinkin' how hard it was for those that starred / in the movies portrayin' the roles / of butlers and maids slaves and hoes / many intelligent black men seemed to look uncivilized / when on the screen / like a guess I figure you to play some jigaboo / on the plantation, what else can a nigger do / and Black women in this profession / as for playin' a lawyer, out of the question / for what they played Aunt Jemima is the perfect term / even if now she got a perm / so let's make our own movies like Spike Lee / cause the roles being offered don't strike me / there's nothing that the Black man could use to earn / Burn Hollywood Burn.

9.Ignorance of One's Own History:

In the chapter "The Memories of Old Women," Elia goes further to evince how there is "no inalienable right of return to precolonial 'purity' or 'authenticity'" for the postcolonial subject.26 She also points out that Cliff does not simply create new identities, or categories, to solve the recurrent problem of postcolonial subjects finding an identity, but utilizes Harry/Harriet's queerness to achieve wholeness through bringing together the diverse components of one's individuality. Elia claims "Harry/Harriet achieves wholeness by ever being dual--physically a male, socially a woman," and thereby heals her community both physically and spiritually.27


Nada Elia also discusses how "the designation 'fiction' negates the very thorough and painstaking research" authors such as Michelle Cliff and Toni Morrison conduct, and how alternative history is subtly dismissed by slipping into categories such as "Fiction/Women's Studies."28 I would now like to quote a beautiful section of her chapter, "The Memories of Old Women":

The reconstruction, from shattered fossil fragments, relying primarily on hypotheses and educated guesses, is termed "science." Imagining military battles that occurred thousands of years ago, based on cave paintings and the writings of poets who most likely used their license to embellish, is deemed "history." (We are told, after all, that these poets were paid to aggrandize the achievements of their sponsors.) But the recording of women's accomplishments over the last century and the first part of this one, based on interviews with people they knew, walks through the gardens they planted, lingering moments of lullabies they sang to their grandchildren, bank accounts in their names, stamps in their passports, is deemed "fiction."


Olaudah Eqiano

***Some other autobiographies available on line are The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, or an online Anthology of American Slave Narratives.

***An impressive list of sources relavent to Africans' impacts on Latin America can be found at the Latin American Resource Review. This page also includes summaries of these sources, so you can look quickly to decide what might be of help to you. This would be equally relavent to teachers and students alike to explore further reading.

***The CU History Department has a very good page on Antebellum American History. On this page is a great section about Reform, Abolition, and Slavery, and this part is of particular interest, but their anchor isn't working, so just scroll down to it. There you will find links to many related topics, and you will also find it worth your trip.

*** An excellent essay by John Clarke entitled "The Origin and Growth of Afro-American Literature" is on the web. It is long, but very interesting, and he touches on many different authors and aspects of the writing.

*** A great brief history of The Slave Narrative is available too. It includes definitions, early examples, later examples, and offers ideas for further reading. It also has a section called "general information" about slave narratives, which is an outline of purposes, influences, reasons for popularity, parallels with captivity narratives, frequent patterns, and frequently repeated motifs. This site is an excellent introduction.

Also, not so much a link, but a book that is especially interesting and relative to this topic--especially Olaudah Equiano--is Tropicopolitans, by Srinivas Aravamudan. A chapter of this book is dedicated to "Equiano and the Politics of Literacy." In this chapter, Aravamudan capitalizes on the fact that "the most significant generic development of the century was, of course, the elevation of the novel from a scandalous to a moral genre."10 Focusing on this fact, as well as Equiano's life, Aravamudan explores the paradox of whether Equiano triumphed over slavery, or continued to agree with, and go along with, colonial commerce. The chapter doesn't claim that Equiano is a revolutionary or a sell out, but tries to illuminate the effects that nationalization had on him and om society by looking back. It looks at both Equiano's use of literature to instigate emancipation, as well as his attempts to bring literacy to the people of Sierre Loene. By examining Equiano's intertwining with Christianity, capitalism, and colonialism, Aravamudan shows the reader just how complicated Equiano's position was.

C.L.R. James

***Here is a biography of C.L.R. James that is excellent. It's pretty long, but very inclusive.

**The Black Jacobins: a Class Analysis of Revolution is a short and concise essay on a political discourse page focusing on theories of colonialism and postcolonialism.

***A fine site on the history of Slave Resistance in the Caribbean.

Howard Zinn

Here is a text page on A People's History of the United States. It has more links, teaching resources, and lots more ideas.

Merle Hodge

Here is a text page on Crick Crack, Monkey. It includes links to just about anything you could want relating to Merle Hodge, as well as teaching resources and stuff like that.

Michelle Cliff

Here is a text page on No Telephone to Heaven. It has everything you need there too: links, teaching resources, more dialogues.

Slavery: The American Way, is an outline and notes for teaching about slavery that is intended for people to individualize and use variations of in their own classrooms. The notes are helpful, and the outline is a good basis for teaching about slavery if you need some ideas.

A page titled "Bring History Alive!" at the National Center for History in the Schools is a preview of two sourcebooks for teaching U.S. and World History in classrooms 5-12, and making it fun. There are six examples on the site you can look at either for ideas, or to decide whether you'd like to buy it or not.

Professor Gregory Jay teaches African American Literature at the University of Wisconsin, and he has excellent Notes on Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative that introduce teachers to the topic, and help them with ideas for class use. He discusses a little background information, the rhetorical situation of the work, and then touches on many major issues for discussion and interpretation.

Angelo Costanzo also has a good page about Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797). His page focuses on classroom issues and strategies; major themes, historical perspectives, and personal issues; significant form, style, or artistic conventions; the original audience; comparions, contrasts, and connections; and also includes reading questions and appraoches to writing about the work. The Heath Online Instructor's Guide offers similar outlines for tons of writers, like James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, many of which are mentioned earlier on this page, and can be linked to through their names in the text, as well as here.

Teaching history through literature is further explored on Vicki's Teaching page.

1.Doherty, Thomas. "Olaudah Equiano's journeys: The geography of a slave narrative." Partisan Review, v64n4, (Fall 1997), 572-581.




5.James, CLR. The Black Jacobins. New York: Vintage Books, 1989, VII.

6.Phillips, C. "Mariner, Renegade and Castaway." New Republic, 5 August 1996, 35.

7.Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 1995, 11.

8.Ibid., 11.

9.Ibid., 8.

10.Ibid., 10.

11.Hodge, Merle. Crick Crack, Monkey. London: Andre Deutsch 1970, 90.

12.Ibid., 89.

13.Hodge, Merle. "Challenges of the Struggle for Sovereignty: Changing the World versus Writing Stories," in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Wellesley, MA: Calaloux 1990, 206.

14.Ibid., 202.

15.Ibid., 205.

16.Ibid., 205.

17.Ibid., 203.

18.Ibid., 205.

19.Cliff, Michelle. No Telephone to Heaven. New York: Plume, 1996, p193.

20.Ibid., 206.

21.Elia, Nada. Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 2001, 55.

22.Ibid., 59.

23.Doherty, Thomas. "Olaudah Equiano's journeys: The geography of a slave narrative." Partisan Review, v64n4, (Fall 1997), 572-581.

24.Aravamudan, Srinivas. Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999, 233.

25.Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 1995, 8.

26.Elia, Nada. Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 2001, 55.

27.Ibid., 72.

28.Ibid., 59.

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