On Dana’s second trip to the past, Rufus showed Dana the way to Alice’s house. The journey there relayed many of the difficulties that a person today could have in understanding the realities of slavery in 1815 Maryland. For Dana this is complicated by the fact that she is black. In her previous interactions in this time, Dana came to discover that civilities she expected as a human being in the 1970s were unknown for black women at the time. Dana was fearful and scared on her way to see Alice, the free black woman on the edge of town, and meeting a white man was one of the causes. Dana of course preferred to not have any accidental meetings with white men, as it reduced the chances of any problems or violence. She was more afraid of this than she was of street violence in her own time (Butler, 33). For a black woman of the time, meeting a white adult male in Maryland in 1815 would have meant explaining who they were and what they were doing there. More chilling was the prospect of violence or mistreatment, as black women were treated as no more than property and could be abused. When Dana finally met the patrollers, a white patroller does try to rape her. Another time she was beaten just for reading. Dana’s interactions with white men were nearly all unpleasant.
The story itself is set in 1976, a year which celebrates two hundred years of freedom in America (Mitchell, 53). Butler’s novel, and the experiences of Dana trying to accomplish something so simple as walking to a friend’s house, shows that despite issues which remained in racial relations, the difference between 1815 and 1976 showed a significant improvement, but there is further work necessary to heal the rift that was created by the slave trade of past.
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