Richard Allen: Thoughts on a “Good” Master

The whole of Richard Allen’s autobiography is interesting and worth reading, but the beginning is something that sticks out to me; he refers to his master in terms of endearment. Of course, my ancestors had never been enslaved (my Korean ancestors were severely mistreated and forced to work for the Japanese, but it’s nowhere near the same), but to see how he speaks of being enslaved is bizarre because there’s truly no such thing as a good master. There is no way to own a person and be good yourself, and also to, later in life, relinquish those slaves does not make you a good person. Realizing what you’ve done wrong and trying to atone for that does not automatically and without a doubt make you good. It would be interesting to see what this man had done besides force his slaves to buy their own freedom instead of freeing them and fronting the £60 bill himself, as, I would assume, God would have wanted him to. He could have afforded it if he truly saw them as family. I’m sure that being a Quaker probably factored into his sudden turnaround on the idea of owning slaves, but I can’t pretend to pat this old, dead man on the back for what he did to save himself in the eyes of his god.

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