Abolitionist Literature

Saniya Gayake, Amber Liao, Brianna Carroll, Umaymah Sultana

Frederick Douglas's Resume

  • In 1827, I began to learn how to read from my master’s wife, Sophia Auld. Although she was told to stop teaching me, I was able to read about John Quincy Adams’ anti slavery petitions and learn about the abolition movement. This sparked my work in promoting the abolition movement and encouraged me to develop my speaking and writing skills to promote my ideas with the public.

  • I attempted to escape from slavery twice around 1835/1836 but unfortunately was caught. In my final attempt to escaped, I was assisted by a free black woman named Anna Murray, who greatly influence me later in my life.

  • After escaping, I married Anna Murray and moved to Bedford,Massachusetts, where there was a thriving black community. Here I was able to attend abolition meetings and start my career as an anti-slavery speaker.

  • William Lloyd Garrison, who had been impressed with my work, had written about me in “The Liberator”, allowing me the opportunity to speak at various conventions.

  • The publications of my autobiographies, the first being influenced by none other than William Lloyd Garrison, caused great controversy. While some were thoroughly impressed with my work, many others doubted the ability of a slave to be able to compose such work.

  • I gave a 4th of July Speech in Rochester in 1852, discussing American freedom. I made sure to emphasize that the freedom that was being so highly exalted was “your freedom” and not “my freedom”. While I admired this nation greatly, I could not look past the fact that the freedom of whites so greatly inhibited the freedom of men of color. Having been a former slave myself, I found it Ironic to be giving a speech on a freedom that for me, didn’t exist.

  • When the civil war came around in 1861, I was not deterred. As a matter of fact, I joined the 54th Massachusetts infantry, the first regiment with African American soldiers. I, along with countless other African Americans served on the union side, to further support the abolition of slavery.

  • I spoke on Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation saying that this was the first step to ensuring freedom for slaves. In my Cooper Institute speech in 1863 I discussed how an appreciation for Abraham Lincoln had grown amongst the Black community, due to the support and enthusiasm for his Proclamation.

  • After the Union victory and the emancipation of slaves, I was given many positions, such as the position of President of the freedman’s savings bank, which was a contributing factor to my nomination for Vice President. Being the first African American nominee for Vice President showed that color was no longer as much of a discriminating factor as before. I did no campaign however, but was honored at the nomination.

  • A few years after the death of my wife, I married Helen Pitts, a white woman. This marriage caused much controversy as an interracial marriage, even amongst my friends and family members. I fail to see the issue however, as Blacks are free people, just as Whites.





Uncle Tom's Cabin

Biography: Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in 1811 as the sixth of eleven children. She was in a family that was very influential in society. Her father was a Reverend and all of her brothers went on to be ministers. Her oldest sister was an instigator in education for women and her youngest sister was the founder of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. Harriet Beecher Stowe attended Sarah Pierce’s Academy. Stowe made her influence in society through her writing. Her writing allowed her to express her ideas more effectively. In 1851,Gamaliel Bailey contracted Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was first published in an anti-slavery newspaper and became a bestseller in the United States. Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped to fuel the fire of the abolitionist cause.

Summary: Uncle Tom’s Cabin takes place in the pre-Civil War South, when slavery was still legal. This novel showed the stark reality of slavery during that time period. The novels plot starts with the Shelby family being pushed to sell two of their slaves, Uncle Tom and Harry, because of economic troubles. Even though neither, Mr. or Mrs. Shelby wants to sell the slaves for different reasons, they are sold. The novel follows their journey and the various characters they meet, such as Eva St. Claire, Mr. Haley, and Adolph. This influenced the abolitionist movement because Stowe successfully communicated the horrors black people experienced like the cruelty, separation from family, beatings, and humiliation.

Importance: This book forever changed how Americans view slavery. Readers became very aware of the horrors and mistreatment of slaves. As Uncle Tom’s Cabin became the most discussed work of fiction in the United States, the novel influenced feelings about slavery in society. While it was very controversial in the South, it was very famous in the North, which changed American values. This disparity is why Uncle Tom's Cabin is considered to be a contributor to the outbreak of the Civil War. It also inspired other novels, songs, poems, and pamphlets in the abolitionist movement.

The Confessions of Nat Turner

Biography: Nat Turner was born on October 2, 1800 on a Southampton County Plantation with a fate as an individual under bondage. He was believed to be closely connected with God because of his ability to see and predict the future. After suffering and watching others suffer from the harsh conditions of slavery, he led a violent slave rebellion on August 21, 1831. This incident put fear in southern states, enacting harsher laws against slaves, but fueled the abolitionist movement in the North.

Summary: The Confessions of Nat Turner tells the story of the organized slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. As Nat grew older and less naive, he could not let the injustice perpetrated on his fellow slaves to affect them any longer. Through the word of God, Nat felt as if he had an obligation to help his people. Although this rebellion led to harsher conditions for the southern slaves, the book allows for the reader to understand the harsh conditions experienced by the slaves, evoking sympathy and knowledge. Northerners became fueled by this, furthering the abolitionist movement.

Inspiration: As a spiritual man, Nat Turner was believed to be the chosen one of God. In 1831, God supposedly gave him the word to lead the slaves from bondage, causing him to take action against the injustices. He wished to rid slavery and it's harsh conditions that would lead to equal representation of blacks and whites.

Importance: Because of the Confessions of Nat Turner, Americans in both the North and South experienced ample amounts of change. The rebellion caused more laws that further suppressed slavery in the South. American values changed due to the increased knowledge of the harsh conditions experienced by slaves. This allowed the Northern society to take more action against these maltreatments, fueling the Civil War.


From 1820 to 1860, abolitionist writers and literature changed American society in the way it brought more awareness to the horrors of slavery, impacted the beginning of the Civil War, and further inspired the abolitionist movement. The primary repercussion from this literature is the communication of the horrors slaves experienced like the cruelty, separation from family, beatings, and humiliation. People such as Frederick Douglass educated themselves in order to create opportunities for himself for a higher position in society. Frederick Douglas influenced American values in the way that he opened American’s eyes to the capcabilities of slaves. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin which portrayed the brutal truth about slavery. This novel also influenced American politics because it was one of the reasons the Civil War started. Nat Turner took action on the issue of slavery and lead a slave rebellion. From inspiring American citizens to altering politics, Abolitionist literature changed the fate of American society.