Certain points in history are uncomfortable for us to talk, and even think, about. The Holocaust, 9/11; there’s too many to list. One part of the past that lasted decades, centuries, and, to this day, is still an issue in some ways, is that of slavery. Acts of extreme racism and violence were wrought upon African Americans for most of history, and this racial group still experiences too much of this hatred. Since slavery was abolished in 1865, much of the United States remained segregated until the mid-20th century; far too recently for us Americans to be comfortable with. There is a semi-sheer curtain drawn over the idea of slavery because of this discomfort. The details linger in history books and in memories of elder people. However, graphic tales of this time are not often seen in media and popular culture, and are rarely talked about in-depth in classrooms and out of them.
This has recently started to change.
The television network, WGN America, premiered a new series just a few days ago, on March 9th, called Underground. It is a period drama that depicts a group of African American slaves planning a great escape from a Georgia plantation via the Underground Railroad.
Few to no works exhibit real stories like that of the run-away slaves in the television show. Perhaps the show was produced to resurrect the terrors of this time period; to raise awareness and scare viewers enough so that nothing of this sort happens again. Maybe it was created simply to further verify the truth of what occurred hundreds of years ago. This was certainly the goal of Harriet Jacobs in publishing her novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which detailed the real events of her enslaved life. She wanted to tell readers of her sufferings, to expose the cruelty that African American slaves suffered, and tell the truth of what happened to slaves. Underground also expresses these concepts, and gives modern America a history lesson worth remembering. In her essay, “African American,” in Keywords for Children’s Literature, Michelle Martin states that the genre of African American children’s literature has “…an intolerance of the unequal treatment of Black children and a confrontation with harsh historical realities in forms that children can understand” (Martin, 13). If the quote is altered to read “that all people can understand,” the idea behind exposing everyone, in the U.S. and around the world, to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Underground is a way of easily educating everyone on the dark moments of history; real stories of terrible happenings are spoon-fed to us so that we understand, and can utilize what we learn and take precautions to ensure that they do not happen again.