“The Land of Steady Habits”
Humor can be cathartic, but who would expect to find humor during the bleak years of American slavery? Yet humor can actually be beneficial to human beings dealing with hardship. Humor offers a way of connecting with others dealing with the same issues; a way of relating to shared hardships. It says, “Yes, I know! Me too!” to those in similar circumstances, and helps them weather the storms together. Laughing during times of trouble can help release the stored energy of anger, express the bafflement over injustice, and work through the total irrationality of human action. Seeing the humor when it seems everything around you is unbelievably difficult helps elevate pain and the stresses of daily living. It can even aid creativity, problems solving, and an individual’s ability to cope.
So among the many writers and speakers during the Black Abolitionist movement, one name stands out: Bob’n Around. Bob’n Around was the pen name of a traveling correspondent to the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper from around 1860 to around 1862. He had a way of turning a tragic scene into an ironic, head shaking image that the black community of his readers could easily relate to. It’s not so much what he says as it is the way he says it. This is humor at its finest: subtle and pointed.
In this installment, Bob’n visits Connecticut, a place he describes as “…the land of steady habits, Cuban tobacco, and wooden nutmeg.” He offers a great vision of the country when slavery was the norm for most states (slavery was outlawed in Connecticut in 1848). I think you’ll enjoy reading this one, but we’ve also included an audio recording to help expand the experience. The communication is subtle, but Bob’n gets his point across. (Want more from Bob’n? Consider subscribing to the Black Studies Center’s site at this link.)