Summary and Analysis Project
By: Elizabeth Whitehurst
Interlude XI: The Helper
In Interlude XI Jeremiah Henry never drove his wagon faster in all of his life other than when he took the slaves to the river to catch the ferry to Ohio. He would have bet on everything in his store that the ferry was not going to be there that night but to his disbelief it was there. He watched his passengers get off the wagon. Joe and Emma gave him hugs while the other boy and girl did not say thank you, they just held each other. Then, he watched the ferry disappear into the darkness.
The next day, Mrs. Henfield and Pendle came into his store wanting to know if he knew anything about the four slaves that disappeared. When he said no he felt the delight in his eyes and face as he lied because he did not like lying but it was his idea to come to the south to help the slaves. However, when Mrs.Henfield told Jeremiah that his passengers set the barn on fire and one of her slaves almost died saving the horses and mules, his heart sank. He felt like he had some of the responsibility because he dangled freedom in front of his passengers eyes.
Pendle had no proof that Jeremiah was involved in any of the events that happened that night. Regardless of that Pendle still told the townspeople and plantation owners not to buy from Jeremiahs store. As a result of this Jeremiah lost almost all of his trade overnight. But, before Pendle could one day accuse Jeremiah of aiding runaway slaves and have him arrested, he got on the ferry to Ohio and never looked back.
This picture represents the type of lifestyle that the slaves on the Butler and Henfield plantation lived and worked.
Analysis: Not Everyone Acts like Their Stereotype
Julius Lester’s view on race shines through in his novel, Day of Tears, especially in Interlude XI when you look through a historical lens. Through this lens Lester presents us with details of how people acted during slavery. His portrayal of social structure and the interactions between blacks and whites truly proves that the easing of racial tensions in America may have prompted Lester to write the novel to point out good and evil acts performed by both blacks and whites during slavery.
In Interlude XI, Jeremiah Henry is an example of how not all of the white people in the south are evil. He moved to the south to see what he could do to help the slaves escape slavery and he helped one of his workers runaway. Lester also showed both good and evil in the slaves on the Henfield plantation. Typically slaves are presented as victims that do not cause harm to their masters. However in Interlude XI the slaves that were escaping set the barn on fire and Sampson, the slave that was at the barn at the time was trying to save the horses and mules. In this one scene slaves acted on both sides of good and evil. Later Lester showed how evil white slave owners could be. Mrs. Henfield and Pendle owners of the slaves that ran away boycotted Jeremiahs store and caused him to lose almost all of his trade. Just in Interlude XI alone Julius shows us black and whites acting in both sides of good and evil.
In Julius Lester's novel Day of Tears, he gave us a different perspective on slavery. He showed us that not all slaves are good and not all are evil. For example, Sampson one of Mrs.Henfields slave is a good slave. He had an opportunity to run away and be free from being owned, but he said no and that since Mrs. Henfield takes good care of him, he had nothing to worry about. An example of an evil slave is Mattie. She was a good slave to Master Butler until he sold her daughter away. Then she spit in his food several times and happily served it to him. Then Lester showed us that white people in the south acted good and evil. Master Butler is an example of an evil white person in the south because he had to sell most of his slaves to pay off his debt. Worst of all he sold Emma. She took care of his two daughters and was the daughter of Mattie a slave he grew up with. Then an example of a good white person in the south in Fanny Kemble. She moved away from the Butler plantation because it hurt her heart to watch slavery. Then while living in Philadelphia she ran into Joe and Emma on the street. She told them that if Master Butler saw them he could resell them into slavery. Therefore, she helped them get to Canada.
Not only in my chapter, but in the whole novel Julius Lester provides a theme that is well rooted through all of the text. By examining this work through a historical lens we can see that the notion that not all white slave owners were evil and all slaves were good is wrong. The easing of racial tensions allowed Lester to provide us with the accurate and true representation of how people acted during slavery. The truth being white slave owners and slaves performed acts of good and evil.