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Blog 5

I had a very rough time interpreting Olmsted’s text and it wasn’t until after class that I realized why. I had approached it as though I was searching for some overarching big-picture theme to connect everything together and not paying as much attention to all of the details when I really should have done just the opposite. On top of that, the style of writing is very foreign to me and I was unfamiliar with a lot of people, places, and things he referenced. With that said, it still struck me in a lot of ways and I think I am actually starting to make some sense of it. Maybe.

For starters, I think one of the big-picture topics I may have actually found was that, although Olmsted was not necessarily going for this the entire time, much of his writing addresses the issues of slavery that do not revolve around those being enslaved. He spends a great deal of time, for example, discussing the laziness of whites, the rudeness of women, and the perspectives of northerners. Just as I think it is important for us to consider slavery from the slaveholder’s perspective, I think it is equally (if not more) important to consider its effect on other aspects of life besides emotions.

Another thing I had sort of glossed over when thinking about slavery was the fact that it did not only apply to blacks. I actually found myself going back and rereading page 292 a few times because I assumed he had to have been referring to blacks when writing the word “grunt” to mock speech patterns of Mexicans. Olmsted’s accounts of racism toward Indians, Mexicans, and the Irish were a painful reminder that when we leave out groups of people in our research, we are considering the other groups inferior whether we realize it or not. When we consider one group of people inferior to another…it’s racism. Whether it’s intentional or not. So I know that we are focusing on slavery in Texas and we will typically be dealing with racism towards blacks, Olmsted’s text served as a reminder that I cannot forget about other possibilities throughout the course of my research.

Something that interests me is the cyclical nature of the relationships between slaves and slave owners. “People” weren’t able to “serve upon juries for bad moral character, gross ignorance, or mental incapacity” (127) but it was up to a judge to decide the answers to the subjective measures of intelligence and there was really no way for slaves to ever get the education they would need to be able to pass these tests in the first place.

And finally…I was confused by a statement that Olmsted made which was that northerners are not as sympathetic to slaves as southerners are. I suppose I would agree that southerners who did not own slaves were more sympathetic than in the north because they more closely witnessed the acts of slavery. However…generally speaking, I would argue that northerners were more sympathetic to slavery because there were fewer slave owners.

On a side note…I’m nervous but extremely excited for the salon Thursday!



Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 12, 2011 at 12:33 am

    (You did a wonderful job at the salon, Lauren!)

    Also, I agree with you about the Olmsted piece — it took me a while as I went back over it after class (I was one of the unfortunately unprepared) to recognize that he really hadn’t bothered to make the letters connect into some cohesive meaning/message or ultimate point but simply meant them as lists of observations and abolitionist winks

    — as an English major, this was a difficult realization to face, but we carry on … somehow

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