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Suicide, Slavery, and Memory in American Culture

Suicide, Slavery, and Memory in American Culture

Chapter:
(p.157) Epilogue Suicide, Slavery, and Memory in American Culture
Source:
The Power to Die
Author(s):
Terri L. Snyder
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226280738.003.0007

Stories of suicide were part of the history and culture of slavery. After the Civil War, the memory of suicide in slavery was used to indict the institution of slavery and the history of white prejudice, to keep alive the injustices of slavery in the past to fuel the politics of the present historical moment. In these recollections, African Americans asserted authority over national history; remembrance memory was a means for them to interpret the past of slavery on their own terms, although these testimonies were often “highly mediated.” Stories of self-destruction in slavery were central to African American cultural politics that stretched into the twentieth century, long after slavery had ended. By focusing on the past tragedies of suicide, competing and distinct visions of the useable past of slavery were served up as lessons and reminders for the present national moment.

Keywords:   memory, Flying Africans, Charles Chestnutt

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