Blog post 7: Venus in Two Acts

This week, we read ‘Venus in Two Acts” by Dr. Saidiya Hartman. She writes of the absence of narratives and accounts of enslaves people, how there story was not told. Her example is the story of Venus, one of two girls on board the slave ship “Recovery” who were killed by the captain John Kimber. We know the story of the trial, and we know that John Kimber was acquitted on both counts. Despite this, we know next to nothing about Venus, aside from her name and her fate. This is where her story, and the stories of countless other slaves, normally end. Without the ability to read or write, the stories of them remain untold. This tragic halt leaves those looking back with many questions, concerns, and curiosities about the lives of those enslaved, despite the overwhelming desire to know the whole truth. This is what leads Dr. Hartman to picture them in an alternate reality, in a free society. She says, “The loss of stories sharpens the hunger for them. So it is tempting to fill in the gaps and to provide closure where there is none” It is pleasant to think of these two girls in a better place, where the atrocities committed upon them never existed. However, this is not and never will be the case. To me, I see this as very important. Although we do now know the whole story of most enslaved people, we cannot romanticize their lives with fiction. In doing so, we create a false sense of the reality of slavery. It is important to understand and never forget the horrible, inhumane period where Africans were enslaves, abused, tortured and murdered, no matter how tempting it is to pretend it wasn’t as terrible as it was.

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