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Prior to the publication of any slave narrative, African Americans had been represented by early historians’ interpretations of their race, culture, and situation along with contemporary authors’ fictionalized depictions. Their persona was often “characterized as infantile, incompetent, and…incapable of achievement” (Hunter-Willis 11) while the actions of slaveholders were justified with the arguments that slavery would maintain a cheap labor force and a guarantee that their suffering did not differ to the toils of the rest of the “struggling world” (Hunter-Willis 12). The emergence of the slave narratives created a new voice that discredited all former allegations of inferiority and produced a new perception of resilience and ingenuity.
Frederick Douglass’s and Harriet Jacobs’s narratives both focused on self-made individuals who experienced upward mobility through their own efforts and hard work, therefore partaking in the positive redefining of African Americans. The writing methods of each differed in the style in which they presented their narratives where Douglass took on a…