Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trying to Tell Harriet Bailey's Life

Alas! As I have written before, sometimes you fall in love with your own writing but must sacrifice it to the greater cause of a better chapter. My first chapter, about Douglass's mother, grandmother, and slave mistresses, is growing out of a quite long paper about his mother. The shift in focus means that much of the introduction and conclusion must be revised into something else and often out of existence. Hence, I have this blog to preserve those earlier versions for posterity (and also in the hopes that, if I am WAY off on anything, someone can point it out, or offer suggestions).

This is a companion paragraph to an earlier one that is suffering the same fate. I hope I haven't posted it, or a version of it, before.:

The real woman Harriet Bailey existed somewhere between the records of her as Aaron Anthony’s property and her son’s use of his little information about her in explaining the ways that a slave society attacked African American families and intelligence. In attempting to understand her lived experience, more questions arise than answers and often any attempt to answer those questions leads to more questions. What evidence exists to support one interpretation of the few facts over another is not strong enough to allow any interpretation to stand unchallenged – again, by more questions. Such is the problem in attempting to recover the lives of the historically mute or to understand what happens in the blind spots of the historical record. Yet, since so few questions at all have been asked about Harriet Bailey a set of questions rather than conclusions brings historians closer to understanding the options and conditions in which she moved more specifically than a general study of slave mistresses or slave women, even if modified by “Eastern Shore” or “Baltimore.” Certainly a set of questions is more honest than ignoring her, dismissing her, or providing a set of weak or near fictional conclusions.


  1. please react quickly to my question. i need to get a better grade than my former partner.
    when was harriet bailey born?

    1. it seems like no one knows! I'm writing a report and no matter where I look, I can't find her birth date!