Legacy of Slavery & Oppression in Literature

Stories about slavery have a long tradition. The first example from European literature that comes to my mind is The Oresteia. Most people don’t talk about that ancient Greek play as a slave story, but Cassandra is a slave. Her role as cursed witness continues to speak to audiences. Slaves and slavery are central to the stories in the The Bible. Shakespeare wrote explicitly about slavery, and his character Caliban continues to influence writers concerned with the legacy of slavery. Don Quixote contains several stories about slavery, and its author, Miguel de Cervantes, was a slave for half a decade.

By the time merchant capitalism was an established part of European trade, slavery was the backbone of colonial economics. In 1688, Aphra Ben wrote Oroonoko, a story of an African prince who dies as a slave in a South American plantation. In the 18th century, the English translation of A Thousand Nights and a Night, which is full of slave stories, was popular reading.

Abolitionist in the 19th century used […]