Letter of Recommendation
The challenges faced by American slaves were brought powerfully alive by Donna Wyant Howell during a special class here on the campus of Georgetown University. She displayed a wealth of knowledge when conveying what life was like on plantations through the eyes of those who experienced slavery first-hand.
For the first time, many students received a glimpse of the reality behind the events that took place during such a long period in Americas history. The true-life accounts, read in Southern dialect, brought new meaning and understanding to the class. I have studied the Civil War era and slavery very well
or so I thought, said one student, Today I learned the human element. It was as if the ex-slaves rose up to tell us what they went through, what they wanted their descendents and all of America to know. Real, thats what it was, remarked another classmate, Long Sally and Short Sally lived through it. Others told what really happened, not like the cleansed history that Ive studied before.
When the class met again, we discussed the previous session. Donnas impressive presentation left the students wanting more. Because she had time restraints, only an overview could be included, but even that limited amount of information intrigued the class members who were glued to her words, waiting for the next revelation.
Because the focus of our class is on women and religion, those areas of slave life were emphasized. The main point that Donna impressed upon the students was the diversity of the methods of operation on each plantation. Religious practices, the roles of women, and all else were variable because they were based on the decisions of each slave owner. She read excerpts from the dictated words of women who strove to maintain family relations under the most adverse conditions, and she told of requirements for and prohibitions of religious observances by slaves, including praying in the pot.
I recommend Donna Wyant Howell to all who wish to have a speaker or instructor who brings her enthusiasm to the slave narratives. With obvious in-depth knowledge, she creates a presentation that is enlightening and very thought-provoking. After you have heard her, your previous understanding of slavery, as well-educated as it may be, will be enhanced and you will come away with an even greater comprehension coupled with a profound sense of emotional contact with the former slaves themselves.
Diana L. Hayes, JD, Ph.D., STD