The feminist theory views situations in a feminine perspective that is overlooked by the dominant male perspective. In The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, the story of Aminata Diallo is told by Aminata herself. Although the author is male, he
decided to create the book with a female as the inspirational character of the story instead of a male. I believe the point of this is to acknowledge the readers on how important females were during this time and the horrific situations they encountered. The stories of the men are always told, but the women are not as recognized.
The aspect of the story revolves around discrimination between white and black people. Aminata journeys as a child experiencing slavery; a woman struggling for survival, and her rights to motherhood, and a woman working to raise awareness regarding the conditions of slavery. Aminata’s character is very strong while she encounters male forces who constantly beat her down. In her journey, Aminata lives and works on a plantation where she is owned by Mr. Appleby, along with many other slave women. Mr. Appleby forces them to do anything and everything he asks for, The women in the plantation have it harder than the men, as Aminata is raped at the age of 12 years old. Many of the other slave women were raped as well. There was nothing the women could do about it although they were frightened for their lives. Aminata felt like her dignity had been taken away from her by a bunch of men. When Aminata was raped by Mr. Appleby, she explains, “He owned my labour, but now he was bursting to own all of me. Still I couldn’t move, trapped in my own pain and shame” (Hill, 161). Appleby proceeds to call Aminata an “African whore” after he forcefully raped her. Aminata did not ask or comply to Mr. Appleby’s actions, though he still judged her just because she is a female. Later in the story, Aminata becomes impregnated by her husband Chekura when he escaped from his plantation for a night or two. Once Mr. Appleby found out, he was angry and humiliated her in front of the whole plantation by shaving all her hair off and burning all of her clothes so she was not wanted by any other men. Aminata has always felt humiliated by having her naked body exposed ever since she had first been captured and forced to strip all her clothes off. She would continuously ask Chekura to find her a cloth to cover up with (Hill, 39). The women have always been treated as sex objects and forced to expose their bodies to many toubabs and slave owners.
As every slave struggles to survive, women struggled more than the men. Ones who have children or were impregnated on the journey by the slave owners, must be able to keep themselves alive, along with their children. They were forced to work just as hard no matter the circumstances. When Aminata first met Chekura, she had to ask him to find a woman from a near-by village to get her materials for her “first bleeding” (Hill, 39). Woman need necessities for natural body occurrence that men don’t need and they are not provided for them by the male captives.
Aminata was impregnated by Chekura by choice, though, her baby was sold by Master Appleby because he believed that the new responsibility Aminata would have to take care of her baby would effect he ability to work as hard as she did before. Aminata is valued by everyone, including the slave owners, because of her talent to read, write, and speak several different languages, along with her ability to “catch babies”. If many owners admire her abilities and want to own her, shouldn’t they give her better things in return to make it easier for her to deliver her skills to them? Throughout the book Aminata takes this in advantage by forcing things from the owners and if not provided, she would not do the work.
The feminist perspective is the key perspective of the book as it highlights the feminism movement. Aminata becomes known as a hero towards the other slaves, men and women, once she began to work as a bookkeeper for The Book of Negroes, which is a ledger and record of any slave they come across. Jason tells Aminata that all of the slaves she wrote in the book in Manhattan, all loved her because she took care of them (Hill, 344). Aminata didn’t know that her skills and talents had made such as huge impact on the other slaves. In that time, females were not known to keep the records and ledgers of the slaves, especially not black women. Slave women were expected to clean, cook, and do other household work. They’re viewed as not being as intelligent as men to be able to read or write.
Aminata Diallo has inspired many people during her journey as she proves her intelligence as a black woman during this time period. She makes the slave women proud to have her to represent them and makes many white men view black women differently.
Hill, Lawrence. The Book of Negroes. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. Print.