Amidst the rising of the Civil War, the “Afric-American Picture Gallery” was published and utilizes dramatic irony in an attempt to illustrate the growing racial differences that exist within the United States. The Anglo-African Magazine catered to the black audience, with Ethiop describing his journey to the Black Forest. This bizarre episode demonstrates how whites and blacks within the United States cannot coexist. In order to display the treatment experienced by slaves, Ethiop writes about his encounter with Bernice, a former slave, and how Bernice has his old slave master locked in a cave. In this instance, the roles are reversed, and Bernice, a black man, chains up his white master, Felix, and separates him from his family. Bernice tells Felix that the latter no longer has rights and no longer possesses himself (Ethiop 177), which is exactly what slaves faced until after the Civil War. Despite to their racial differences, Ethiop does not promote integration, but rather uses this story to appeal to slaves and highlight how whites should be treated like those enslaved. This incident promotes the idea that slave-owners should receive equitable retribution and punishment for their actions.
The excerpt about the year 4000 and the Amecans, also known as the “Milk White Race,” is another instance in which Ethiop employs dramatic irony to emphasize de-evolution occurring within the United States (174). In the 1850s, slaves were inferior to white colonists. They were treated as chattel and lacked the liberties white Americans were entitled to under the Declaration of Independence. However, it is in this literacy piece that the white race does not advance. According to the tablets Ethiop found in the Black Forest, the “milk white skins” used to rule the land with their “hands of iron” and their “hearts as the stones of our valleys” (175). Although, they were recognized as individuals of eminence, they enslaved African Americans to do their work for them, which caused them to “vanish” (176). Ethiop describes how their lack of labor caused their muscles to atrophy, leading to the end of the white race. The irony Ethiop employs in this passage relates to theory of “survival of the fittest” suggested by evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin in the 19th century. His theory of evolution argues that those who are superior would be able to survive and reproduce. In relation to society’s advancement, society evolves as long as the individuals apart of it are able to adapt to various conditions. Instead of surviving, reproducing to promote slavery, and developing new cities, it is the power of the whites that leads to the demise of their population.
On the brink of the Civil War, white superiority promoted divisions within the states. Although tablets in the magazine article exemplify how the blacks advance in society, white individuals were the ones that advanced and survived to reproduce to continue slavery within the United States. This literary piece may appeal to African Americans and those who are enslaved because many of the stories regarded and promoted white inferiority. Regardless of the races that prospered in the magazine or the United States, only one race survived. The underlying idea illuminated by Ethiop is that the promotion of one race does not actually indicate evolution or advancement. Instead, the inability for various groups to get together and coexist peacefully hinders the progression of society. Ultimately, Ethiop’s “Afric-American Picture Gallery” is a literary piece that foreshadows the problems that Americans are going to encounter as the Civil War approaches and promotes the death of individuals from both groups. If whites and blacks are at war and are dying, the advancement of the United States will be hampered altogether and the United States will be subjected to de-evolvement.
Ethiop. “Afric-American Picture Gallery.” The Anglo-African Magazine, vol. 1, 1859, pp. 174-177, http://apercu.web.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/16090/2017/12/afro-american-picture-gallery-1859-Anglo-African-Magazine.pdf. Accessed 27 Jan. 2018.