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John De Conqueror, Brer Rabbit and the Civil War

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Abstract:

What did John de Conqueror and Brer Rabbit, the two African American trickster figures, have to do with the Civil War? According to the tales and testimonies of former slaves, the war that would end slavery in the United states was predicted and even planned by these illustrious tricksters. This paper will analyze the slaves narratives, trickster tales, and oral histories collected from centenarians under the Federal Writers Project that attributes the precipitation of the Civil War to the efforts of John De Conqueror, configured as a demigod, and Brer Rabbit, a parabolic representation of the quintessential rebel slave.

In slave narratives and folktales John de Conqueror appears as a functional triptych. He is a sacred spirit who literally takes slaves to a celestial plane where he assures them of their imminent freedom and salvation; he is the slave as revolutionary hero fighting with wit, wisdom, and armed resistance for his humanity, and lastly John de Conqueror is a plant whose root was used to subvert any attempts to whip or torture a slave. There are slave testimonials that insist that the Civil War had been planned a hundred years ahead of time, a theory corroborated in numerous Brer Rabbit tales in which Brer Rabbit tricks two powerful, dominnering animals into fighting each other, thereby securing his escape from their oppressive regime. These stories, related during the ante-bellum period, tend to validate the claim that the Civil War was pre-planned through a combination of divine intervention and slave ingenuity.

These seemingly incredible events were flatly and arrogantly dismissed by the Western educated writers who collected the oral histories because they did not share the same epistemology or world-view of their slave ancestors. The cosmogony or world-view of the slaves, based on a traditional African cosmogony, was never seriously considered in the analysis of the narratives. In an attempt to correct this pedagogical flaw, this paper will examine the tales and narratives from the lens of cultural relativism, that is to say, from the unique perspective and metaphysics of African American slaves.

The expository explanation of the abolition of slavery as Lincoln's military strategy to weaken the Confederate forces by enlisting Black slaves into the Union Army is only a surface account of emancipation. From the slaves' point of view emancipation was propelled by a much longer, complex, numinous derived defense against the most brutal and oppressive system of slavery ever recorded in human history. While it is doubtful that the African American slaves' interpretation of their history will ever be included in Western historiography, it is nevertheless an amazing story worth listening to with an open mind.
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Association:
Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521113_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Kai, Nubia. "John De Conqueror, Brer Rabbit and the Civil War" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, Oct 04, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521113_index.html>

APA Citation:

Kai, N. , 2011-10-04 "John De Conqueror, Brer Rabbit and the Civil War" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521113_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Paper
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: What did John de Conqueror and Brer Rabbit, the two African American trickster figures, have to do with the Civil War? According to the tales and testimonies of former slaves, the war that would end slavery in the United states was predicted and even planned by these illustrious tricksters. This paper will analyze the slaves narratives, trickster tales, and oral histories collected from centenarians under the Federal Writers Project that attributes the precipitation of the Civil War to the efforts of John De Conqueror, configured as a demigod, and Brer Rabbit, a parabolic representation of the quintessential rebel slave.

In slave narratives and folktales John de Conqueror appears as a functional triptych. He is a sacred spirit who literally takes slaves to a celestial plane where he assures them of their imminent freedom and salvation; he is the slave as revolutionary hero fighting with wit, wisdom, and armed resistance for his humanity, and lastly John de Conqueror is a plant whose root was used to subvert any attempts to whip or torture a slave. There are slave testimonials that insist that the Civil War had been planned a hundred years ahead of time, a theory corroborated in numerous Brer Rabbit tales in which Brer Rabbit tricks two powerful, dominnering animals into fighting each other, thereby securing his escape from their oppressive regime. These stories, related during the ante-bellum period, tend to validate the claim that the Civil War was pre-planned through a combination of divine intervention and slave ingenuity.

These seemingly incredible events were flatly and arrogantly dismissed by the Western educated writers who collected the oral histories because they did not share the same epistemology or world-view of their slave ancestors. The cosmogony or world-view of the slaves, based on a traditional African cosmogony, was never seriously considered in the analysis of the narratives. In an attempt to correct this pedagogical flaw, this paper will examine the tales and narratives from the lens of cultural relativism, that is to say, from the unique perspective and metaphysics of African American slaves.

The expository explanation of the abolition of slavery as Lincoln's military strategy to weaken the Confederate forces by enlisting Black slaves into the Union Army is only a surface account of emancipation. From the slaves' point of view emancipation was propelled by a much longer, complex, numinous derived defense against the most brutal and oppressive system of slavery ever recorded in human history. While it is doubtful that the African American slaves' interpretation of their history will ever be included in Western historiography, it is nevertheless an amazing story worth listening to with an open mind.


Similar Titles:
Abraham Lincoln & John L. O'Sullivan: Two Visions of American Civil Religion Before the Civil War

Singing Over John Brown's Body: Remaking Masculinity through Civil War Music

The Civil Religion of John Rawls


 
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