Abolitionist Literature

By Lauren Gaggini

Frederick Douglas: Resume

-His mother dies when he's 8, leaving him to fend for himself within the slave system of America

-He learned to read and risked his life to help other slaves to do the same

-He lived through the horrors and abuse of Slavery and attempts to fee his plantation, but fails

- Even after failing his first try, he attempts to escape his plantation to seek out the American ideals of liberty and succeeds this time

-After escaping, he joined many organizations such as the American antislavery society

-He conquered his fears of public speaking, and antislavery orator in order to promote his image of the ideal America

-He published "Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" an autobiography describing the horrors of the slave system in America

- He published an abolitionist newspaper "the North Star"

-Gave his renowned speech "What to a Slave is the Fourth of July" to show Americas hypocrisy on the topic of Liberty

-He pressed for the public education of black children in American Schools

Websites Used: http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/frdo/index.html



Uncle Toms Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe Background:

She was born to a preacher who was an impactful figure in the Second great Awakening. She received an education from her parents, and became involved in a literary society where she advocated for the equal rights of all American citizens. She married an abolitionist and they became part of the underground railroad. She wrote many fictional pieces promoting her beliefs of equality and liberty for all races and genders. Her most famous work is Uncle Toms Cabin.

Uncle Toms Cabin gives readers a personal look into the life and struggles of a group of Slaves. It highlights the ironies American culture has in terms of their ideals of freedom and Liberty. She takes a more moral and religious approach to convincing people that slavery must be abolished. Stowe's goal in writing this story was to create sympathy for slaves and higher view of the African race as human beings.

This book deepened the divide between the North and South. While Stowe's main intention was to portray Africans as human beings, she villainized south in the process. This pitted the North against the South, and caused extreme backlash in the South because they felt attacked. Many Historians credit Uncle Toms Cabin with inciting the civil war. Her book highlighted the social, economic, and political dive between the nations northern and southern parts by furthering the tension between the two regions.

Big image

Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Biography: Harriet Jacobs was born to a white father and black mother. Because her mother was a slave, Jacobs was also born into slavery despite her partial European heritage. As a child, she lived with her mother and father independently of her owners, but when her mother passed away, she was brought into her owner's home. There she was treated kindly and was taught how to read and write. When her owner passed away she was passed down to her 3 year old daughter. At this point she began to live at a new house that had a much colder and more degrading atmosphere. Her new master, a man named James Norcom, began to make sexual advances on her, inciting the wrath of Mr. Norcom's wife. To escape the sexual harassment, Harriet faked her own escape and lived in an attic for seven years before she could finally manage to escape her live as a fugitive slave. Once she was free, she became very involved in slaves rights and began to write and speak about her beliefs and experiences.

Summary: Incidents in the Life of a Slave girl is narrated through the alias Linda Brent. It tells the story of Jacob's life and struggles. This book is thought of as the first book-length narrative written by a women that shows the brutalities and truth about the lives of female slaves. Instead of using a chronological format, Jacobs uses a unique sequencing that focuses on independent "incidents" in her life. She also interrupts her story to give Social and political commentary multiple times.

Inspiration: In the narrative, Harriet Jacobs states that she does not wish for compassion from the reader for herself, but rather for her "sisters who are still in bondage". Her main motivation for writing "incidents in the life of a slave girl" is to draw attention to the cruel and unjust treatment of enslaved women. Although she knew that many would look down on her because of some of the decisions she made to avoid her masters sexual pursuit (such as starting a consensual but illicit relationship with a neighbor that eventually gave her children), she still chose to share her story because she believed it could be a powerful agent in the fight to end slavery.

Impact: Many critics say that the delayed publication of "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" caused it to be overshadowed by the Civil War. Due to this, the narrative soon disappeared and only re-emerged in the mid to late 20th century. It was republished and reminded the world of the horrors Slaves faced. Now the narrative is seen as a counterpart to the critically acclaimed "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave" due to the strong compassion and empathy it draws from the reader.


In conclusion, the works of Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Jacobs, have had a deep impact on American society. Frederick Douglas was a charismatic figurehead to the antislavery movement, and his writings and orations helped to convince American citizens that Slavery was immoral and inhuman, and should be abolished. Stowe's "Uncle Toms Cabin" was able to reach people who weren't interested in reading slave narratives, and its vast popularity also spurred the antislavery movement forward. Additionally, the divide between the North and South sharpened because it made the south feel victimized, thus it may have been an instigator in starting the civil war. Lastly, Harriet Jacobs showed Americans the mistreatment of female slaves, and extended national compassion to both genders instead of just male slaves. Overall, abolitionist literature incited large amounts of change in 18th century America.