During the beginning of this section of the novel, Baby Suggs struggles with the concept of her own self-identity. After Halle buys her freedom, Baby Suggs and Mr. Garner leave Sweet Home to make Baby Suggs a new life for herself as a freed slave. Through this experience, Baby Suggs has difficulty adjusting to being her own person after years of being someone else’s property. She’s never had anything of her own including her own name. At Sweet Home she was called by the name of Jenny which she indicates was not her real name, and she was unsure as to why everyone called her Jenny there. When Mr. Garner asks what she was called beforehand she responds, “Anything, but Suggs is what my husband named me.” Even the most simple and basic human expectations of what one should have, such as a name, are lacking for Baby Suggs as a result of her life in slavery.
Baby Suggs also describes how little she knew about her children. She intentionally did not get to know them because she knew they would either be taken from her or they would grow up and leave her. Despite this, Baby Suggs explains how she still knew more about them than she knew about herself. She thought, “sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself.” She can barely recount what her children’s faces looked like, but in comparison to the knowledge she has about herself it is still greater. Many other subtle comments like these demonstrate how slaves like Baby Suggs lacked their self-identity. They did not have the sense of self-ownership that the average American citizen typically has, and they did not get to know themselves as whole, complex individuals with agency.