Critical Essays A Note on Slavery

For Cincinnati blacks, slavery’s legacy lies beyond the whip, far from the auction block, a generation away from dogs, slave catchers, patrollers, rapists, child-sellers, iron bits, and pronged necklaces. The curse of bondage lies in the spirit that has been so dirtied that it can no longer love itself. Morrison composes her novel to honor the survivors — station keepers like Baby Suggs who have the courage and determination to fight not only the emerging Ku Klux Klan and other forms of white spite, but to wash away the baptism of silt that coats the psyche and blocks out the light. The holy Baby Suggs names the individual parts of the body that each freed slave must rescue — hands, feet, neck, liver — and concludes her sermon with an appropriate benediction: “More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”