Lerone Bennett’s description of the three axial forces of African American life that enabled the community to survive slavery

One constant source of hope for the enslaved African Americans is the prospect of a blissful afterlife that the Christian doctrine offered.  While the first generation of black slaves in America brought with them their native religious beliefs and practices, they were soon replaced by Christianity.  The white slave owners instilled in their slaves the virtues and values given in the Holy Bible.  When subject to hard physical labor, confinement in their dingy housing quarters and humiliated by their masters, the slaves would console themselves by reiterating the Christian notion of salvation and the hope of a favorable after-life.  There was also considerable solidarity within the slave community, which helped them overcome alienation and feelings of loneliness to a degree.  For example, slaves would distinguish between ‘stealing’ and ‘taking’.  While they considered it fair to ‘taking’ food and clothing from their white masters, the forbade ‘stealing’ the same from another fellow slave.  These kinds of small moral codes added up to give them a sense of dignity even in such hostile conditions.

One can find parallels between the perennial conflict between the slaves and their masters and the central plot of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed.  In the novel, the confrontation between Doro and  Anyanwu can be read as an allegory to the struggle of the slaves.  Hinting that Anyanwu’s character is one of the underdog, the author attributes great powers of patience and perseverance to the former, which are qualities that the slaves also showed.  In a very broad way, the author is hinting at the universality of challenges confronted by human beings.  This is a valid point, for what gives value to a novel is its transcendent quality beyond the here and now.  In other words, although the novel is science fiction, it embodies in it enduring literary qualities that can appeal to generations of readers in the future.  The novel also finds a resonance with the struggles underwent by black Americans in their path to emancipation.

Work Cited:

Lerone Bennet, “Behind the Cotton Curtain”, Chapter 4, Before the Mayflower.