Reflection 1 by Molly Cartwright

     Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom responds to the practice of slavery that was justified based on racial differences. William Craft bases his entire narrative on the belief that race, as a biological category, doesn’t exist. Rather, race is socially constructed and perceived racial differences are based on prejudice beliefs that create a corrupt and unequal society. While Craft understands the clear evil rooted in perceived racial differences and slavery, he knows his white audience may not be easily convinced of this truth. So, with careful consideration of his audience, Craft aims to change people’s views on slavery as a system and the individual rights and liberties of an African American by pointing out the hypocrisy of people owning white slaves.

By pointing out the hypocrisy of people owning white slaves, Craft makes the audience feel vulnerable to slavery and more empathetic. Craft describes how the offspring of master-slave relationships are increasingly white looking and how white children are accidentally or purposefully forced into slavery. This warns reader that white people are not safe from this system because those in power will overlook race, even with it being the justification for slavery, if it means making more money. By showing the audience in the very beginning that white people are not fully protected from the tyranny of slavery, it gives the audience a different perspective that will affect how the audiences takes in the rest of the narrative. Hopefully, the fear of being in that position themselves will allow people to see slavery for what it truly is and empathize with slaves. While people should be able to empathize with slaves without being threatened by the same fate, prejudice ideas have contaminated morals and beliefs about human rights in order to exploit and make economic gain off the oppressed. But by pointing out that racial differences do not protect white people from this evil system, many will change their beliefs. This rhetoric strategy is also used in Mathew Maconaughy’s closing argument in A Time to Kill. Mathew describes the rape of a black seventeen-year-old girl and then asks the court to imagine if she was white. By picturing the horrendous crime happening to a white girl rather than black, the white jury is able to empathize and see what a racist free verdict would be. The rhetoric strategy of getting your audience to empathize and see things from the other perspective has a powerful effect on beliefs.

Craft prioritized changing his white audience’s views over writing without consideration for a white audience. Considering how to best influence his white audience’s beliefs, changed what Craft included in his writing. If Craft was not using this narrative as a strategy to change his audience’s beliefs he wouldn’t have made an effort to point out white slavery. After his experience through slavery, it would be extremely shocking if he took time in his writing to empathize for white people in any way, even if they were trapped in slavery. Craft was able to identify that his audience couldn’t see the evil of slavery without being scarred into empathizing even when he easily could. Including a topic, that would otherwise be absent, for the sake of influencing the audience’s beliefs shows Crafts dedication to changing ideas about slavery.


Link to A Time to Kill speech:

Link to  Running a Thousand Miles For Freedom; Or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (1860)