I would like to believe that "Petition of an African Slave" was written by Belinda herself in the third person, although it is possible that it was transcribed by another. That Belinda, a former slave, could not only demand a stipend of support from her former master's estate, but also write it herself is a more compelling narrative. But, in the end, what I am more curious about is not whether she wrote it, but whether her petition was successful.

Since I cannot satisfy that curiosity, I will instead look at her words. In class, we spoke about how she uses emotion and drama to try and garner sympathy from her audience. She actually tells a well-structured story about her life, emphasizing her happy childhood as a contrast to what happened when she was enslaved. Her descriptions are vivid and compelling.

It seems incredible that someone who was not only enslaved, but also female, would have the gumption to petition for what she saw as her clear right - support from the estate that she toiled for without remuneration. How does slavery change one's ability to speak and present oneself in public? She had to be humble in the petition, and yet not pitiful. She does not come across as asking for a handout, but rather as demanding just compensation.

I would be persuaded by her argument, but as not only female, but as a former slave, Belinda did not have the benefit of having any peers hear her plea. It would have been men more like her former owner who decided whether to rule for or against her. And it seems likely that they would choose to rule against her, in order to establish precedent that might protect themselves at a later date.

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