Essay: The slave psyche in « Go Tell it on the Mountain »
Even if Baldwin's story takes place in 1935, the occurrences about slavery (which can be remembrances of the grown-ups, personal heritage of the youngest) are extremely current. In fact, in Go Tell It on the Mountain, all the characters wear the stigmata of slavery, though it was banned in 1865; it continues to condition all their lives and it is mostly unconscious.
[...] But the main issue is that this necessity of help often becomes a submission, or worse, another form of slavery. First of all, this guidance is transformed in obedience even among black people. For example, Elizabeth is totally submitted to Gabriel; he made her feel guilty for her biggest sin, John. She only has the right to take care of the house and of the children. Moreover, she is beaten as if all her life she has to repent of having loved Richard. [...]
[...] As for Florence, she also perpetuates this behaviour. Totally brainwashed, she tries to look like less by bleaching her face. She dislikes “common nigger” as her husband Franck, who does not make any effort to integrate himself in a white society. She is the victim of the segregation ideology. She feels guilty, as her ancestors, for being black and worse accepts the Whites’ conditions. She has totally integrated the fact that she must look white to survive. And that is how her ancestors in the plantations thought too: they were having babies with master in order to save them from slavery. [...]
[...] Hence, some characters do not want to do what they are told. It is the case of John who looks at the white man (p. even though it is totally forbidden. He risks being lynched or even worse. As for Roy, he, too, does not want to respect the rules and fights with young Whites (p.48). But it is not only a resistance. It is also a sort of rebellion. Particularly with John, who can be characterized as an “Uncle Tom’s Child” he does not only resist. [...]
[...] he thinks that he is ugly, since he has integrated an important feeling of guilt. He is the product of a racist environment. He believes that Blacks are second- class citizens, and that a Black will always be lower as a White. In fact, his attitude perpetuates this false curse on blackness, which of course does not exist niggers have been cursed” John thinks, p.228). It comes from the Bible with the damnation of Noah’s son (considered as the ancestor of Asian and African people) Cham, who had to be servant of servants” (The Bible, 9). [...]