Baby Suggs vs Bernice Johnson Reagon

Hello all!

I found today’s video to be really interesting.  I was reminded of Baby Suggs’ religious speakings when Bernice Johnson Reagon was talking/singing.  Reagon explained how communal singing announced that black people “were here”–that they existed.  I think that Baby Suggs’ spoken “Word” allowed black people to feel a similar sense of belonging.

This is from page 103, explaining how Baby Suggs’ preaching came about: “It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up.  Women stopped crying and danced, men sat down and cried, children danced; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the clearing damp and gasping for breath.  In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great big heart.”

I think what Reagon does is similar to Baby Suggs in that she raises people the same way Baby Suggs does.  Baby Suggs tried to get as many people as possible to join in, and Reagon does the same.   Morrison writes that the black people were “gasping for breath.”  From this image, I pictured Reagon singing with others.

One of my favorite things that Reagon said was how, when black people sing together, they say “I” instead of “We.”  “We” implies the presence and inclusion of white people, while “I” brings together African Americans alone.  I enjoyed listening to her explain this.

Do you think Baby Suggs and Reagon are similar?  Do you notice any differences?


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