Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig and Nella Larsen's Passing

African American girl, full-length portrait, seated on stool, facing slightly right. Photo by Thomas E. Askew. From Types of American Negroes, compiled and prepared by W.E.B. Du Bois, v. 1, no. 59. Part of the Paris Exposition of 1900.  

Hi, class,

As I mentioned, I would like to you to comment (150 words MAXIMUM) on Frado's new-found assertiveness at the end of Our Nig. Just use the comment function to post your comment--make sure you write your name at the end of your comment if you decide not to log in (you need not log in). If, for some reason, you have trouble, email your comment to me and I will post it for you.    

In addition, please read Part One (Encounter) of Nella Larsen's Passing for Thursday and be ready to comment on some of the intersecting themes of the novel!

PRESENTATIONS for Thursday, 5/27

Fatima Robinson: William Pickens, "The Kind of Democracy the Negro Expects" (1919)

Natasha Armand: Archibald Grimke, "The Shame of America..." (1920)
Athina Johnson: Marcus Garvey, "The Principles of the U.N.I.A." (1922)
Safiyyah A. Muhammad: James Weldon Johnson, "Our Democracy and the Ballot" (1923)


  1. The comment function here allows you to post a comment without logging in. On the drop-down menu, comment as "Anonymous," but write your name at the end of your post.

    Alll best,

    Prof. Williams

  2. "Many times her hands wrought when her body was in pain; but the hope that she might yet help herself, impelled her on." (122) Frado endured many years of abuse from the hands of Mrs. Bellmont and Mary. As a result, I believe she was still struggling with the demons of the aftermath of her abuse mentally, physically and emotionally. I believe that when she was reminded of the pain she suffered she tried to push those distant but recent memories out of her head but even then it stilled caused her alot of pain. Frado, however, with embracing her faith in God, prayed and hoped for better days so she continued to strive on.
    Stacy Gordon

  3. "Stop!" shouted Frado, "strike me, and I'll never work a mite more for you".
    Even thuogh Mr.Bellmont did not want to go against his family, he sowed the seeds of courage and independence within Frado's head. Because of thet Frado developed strength, courage and a sense of independence to standup to Mrs. Bellmont and her unwarrented cruelty. Mrs.B did not know what was in Frado's mind or what she would do next, after this incident Mrs. B longed for her daughter Mary to return home so that she could assist her in continuing to perpetrate the wicked and cruel acts.
    Mary's death caused Mrs. Bellmont to realize that she was all alone in her cruel campaign against Frado, it also cause her to be more reserved with her confrontation because she had no one to back her up. Towards the end Mrs. Bellmont relize that she needed Frado more than Frado needed her, but it was too late because Frado had allready made her decision to leave at the end of her time, she had enought of Mrs. Bellmont and her cruel acts.
    Gilan Abrams

  4. Being that James was not around to comfort or protect her anymore, Frado needed to stand up for herself. Mr. Bellmont knew this as well and felt it was important to tell Frado “when sure she did not deserve a whipping, to avoid it if she could.” No matter what Frado was asked to do by Mrs. Bellmont, she was continuously whipped by her. After being whipped so much, she realizes she would never be able to please Mrs. Bellmont and the only thing left to do was to show resistance. I feel that Mrs. Bellmont hated Frado so much that deep down inside she hoped to beat her to death. She compared her to a “black snake” that can not be killed. Frado managed to survive after all the mistreatment she endured even though it started to take a toll on her. Knowing that she was able to survive the treatment of Mrs. Bellmont it gave her hope that she could make it on her own.

    Kateia Wade

  5. Frado discovered her independence and inner strength with the assistance of Mr. Belmont. Unlike Jack and James, who provided her with hope, Mr. Belmont opened up Frado’s eyes to reality. He made her realize that she was too weak to endure anymore undeserving whippings. “…when she was sure she did not deserve a whipping to avoid it if she could.” “You are looking sick you cannot endure beatings as you once could.”(104) The conversation between her and Mr. Belmont was a psychological penetration and injection of courage. His words aroused her inner power and enabled it to patiently wait for the right time to show itself. That time soon became available when Mrs. Belmont threatened to whip her for not coming back with the wood in a timely manner. Frado stopped Mrs. Belmont in mid-action and warned her that if she continues to whip her that her labor would cease. As I envision this scene, I picture Frado looking Mrs. Belmont straight into the eyes with a stern stance, as she released her mental power. In that moment, Frado’s courage, independence, and power were finally revealed.
    Nakisha Johnson

  6. Once Frado realizes just how valuable her services are to Mrs. Bellmont, she was able to face her with courage and threaten to quit working. Frado now understands that no one else in the Bellmont household could do her job and furthermore, no free slave would work under such degradation. What benefit would Mrs. Bellmont gain from Frado's death. I believe this sense of self worth and purpose came upon her when she experienced a spiritual connection from attending nightly church meetings. I think it was the power of prayer which gave Frado the strength to stand up to Mrs. Bellmont and to persevere after suffering years of mental and physical abuse.

    Judy Harris

  7. There is a depth of self-awareness that may not altogether be compassable until faced with a situation where making personal decisions as well as being responsible for such decisions is ineluctable. It is the point of finding help for one’s self in an otherwise helpless situation. For Frado, this day dawns when she defends herself against the incessant whippings of Mrs. B. She voices out her economic worth and her knowledge of Mrs. B’s dependence on her. Wilson writes, "Stop!" shouted Frado, "strike me, and I'll never work a mite more for you;" and throwing down what she had gathered, stood like one who feels the stirring of free and independent thoughts.” (106). Harry Wilson’s depiction of this courage in Frado may in itself represent that point in the history of slavery where sudden realization metamorphosed in one form of protest or fight for freedom.
    Frado is described as willful but it is not until she, even though helpless, puts up a sort of resistance to the brutality she encounters that her will is rightly apportioned. That singular victory reveals to her other ways of helping herself. This is decisive and conclusive for her as Wilson puts it, “She remembered her victory at the wood-pile. She decided to remain to do as well as she could; to assert her rights when they were trampled on; to return once more to her meeting in the evening, which had been prohibited. She had learned how to conquer”(Wilson 109). Her triumph creates room for her to decide to better herself through self education by reading. She gains her freedom after all. Despite her unhealthiness, she goes on to learn other trades for a new source of livelihood.

    -Judith Nwosu

  8. I agree with many of the classmates who posted before me.Clearly the turning point of this story is when Frado is able to stand up to Mrs. Bellmont. She was able to realize how much Mrs.Bellmont depended on her to perform physical labor, something Mrs. Bellmont didn't want to do herself. Also Frado gained more self confidence.

    -Marcus Hulin

  9. Referring to the end of Harriet E. Wilson's novel "Our Nig", Frado seems to be more assertive. Frado has always been a strong child but as she grew older she was more aware of what was going on in her life. She realized that she was neglected and taken advantage of while living with the Bellmonts. The only people of their family who had seemed to care for her was James, Aunt Abby, and Mr. Bellmont. But no one could really stand up for Frado due to being afraid of Mrs. Bellmont. James later passed away and she had to take care of her self. "Nothing turns her from her steadfast purpose of elevating herself. Reposing on God, she has thus far journeyed securely"(Wilson 130). All of the pain and suffering she endured created her into a strong, wise woman.

  10. I agree with some of my classmate,but most of all with judy.Because toward the and of the Our Nig,Frado gained the confidence and strenght finally standup and face Mrs.Bellmont. If she didnt do so Mrs.B would continue abuse her mentally and physically , cause she felt an amusement and empowerment from it . So she needed that end point from Frado to stop the abusing.

    Anne Phara Saint Louis

  11. Frado's new-found assertiveness :

    Frado was a woman who was physically battered but the one thing that could not be destroyed nor deterred was her spirit. I feel that Frado's new found strength proves that the spirit is intangible and its the one thing that the enemy can not physically possess - it is within. I feel that Frado finally realized this towards the end of the work. She found solace in the realization that despite her struggles her spirit, determined and undeterred, belonged only to her. Her physical withered away yet her soul and her longing to be an equal and to contribute to society as an individual and a black woman remained. I think she found finally that the it was always there and always inside of her.

  12. Frado's new found assertiveness came from advice she received from Mr Bellmont. He told her to avoid any whippings that she felt were unjust, especially because of Frado's failing health and her inability to heal from the beatings like she did when she was younger and stronger. Once she found out that she could stand up to Mrs Bellmont and the consequences were not severe, she continued to exercise her rights to be treated fairly. Frado reaching the age of womanhood began to educate herself and believed that with the skills she inquired while serving the Bellmonts would enable her to support herself. Once her belief grew, despite her health she was determined to live a life that she could call her own.

    Donna Banks

  13. By the end of Our Nig, Frado I believe found herself meaning identity. Frado always knew she was a negro, but her problem was understanding the fact that she was indeed made that way and should have realized sooner just because she was not white did not make her less of a person. James, Jack and Ms. Abby made her feel welcome. They made sure she knew she was different but her being black was not the reason, she was made to feel complete and she too was God's child and white did not justify anything. Frado comes to realize what love means because besides her parents she was use to no love. Then in her head it was like how much did her mother care for her and love her if she is the reason Frado is in this predicament. Frado in my opinion would have rather stayed with her family hungry some nights then get beaten down mentally and physically. She now understands life and hardship, she understands what it is like to have to be tough and have strength to overcome. Frado at a young age was doing more work then the average guy could probably handle. I think overall she made out good.

    Karima McGhee

  14. Despite years of inhumanity treatment, indenture servitude, being abondon by the only person on earth who is biologically program by God to be loved by her, her mother, Frado never gave up hope for a bright future. "Nothing turns her from her steadfast purpose of elevating herself" (131) Although most of the time she was too sick or weak to care for herself because of years of severe abuse by Mrs. Bellmont, she tried desperately to earn a living on her own to liberate herself. After she got married and was abandoned by her husband and was left with a child, she found herself back in the same situation she has always yearn to free herself from, despite her condition she repose on God and found a way to support herself. Her determination for success was inexorable. "Traps slyly laid by the vicious to ensnare her, she resolutely avoided." (129) She kept fighting for liberation, she never gave up hope.

    Nathan Odotei

  15. ‘Character Analysis of Frado in “Our Nig”’

    Frado, the protagonist in the dynamic autobiographical novel, Our Nig, illustrates a deprived child blossoming into a confident woman through years of neglect and abuse. Through faith and the encouragement of Mr. Belmont, Jack, James and Aunt Abby, Frado acknowledges and overcomes the trials and tribulations in her life. With their support, Frado identifies and restores her inner fortitude: “Nig never looked toward her mistress during the process. She had Jack near; she did not fear her now”. (128).

    Ultimately, the story of Frado captures the power of faith and hope. Although, Frado’s future seems gloomy, she continues to have faith and pray for brighter days: “Nig was in truth suffering much; her feelings were very intense on any subject, when once aroused. She read her Bible carefully, and as often as an opportunity presented, which was when entirely secluded in her own apartment, or by Aunt Abby’s side, who kindly directed her to Christ, and instructed her in the way of salvation (87).

    Samantha Braham

  16. She remembered her victory at the wood-pile.She decided to remain to do as well as she could; to asser her rights when they were trampled on; to return once more to her meeting in the evening. which had been prohibited.