Abolitionist Literature

Impact of Abolitionist Literature during the 1820s-1860s

Abolitionist Leader: The Legacy of Frederick Douglass

• In 1836, Douglass made an escape plan but was caught and, after being jailed, released to work as a shipyard slave in Baltimore

• In 1837, Douglass joined the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, an organization made up of free black men, through which he also met a free African-American housekeeper named Anna Murray

• In 1838, Douglass escaped slavery into New York and changed his name to Johnson to avoid getting caught

• Also in 1838, Douglas married Anna Murray and on June 24, 1839, their first daughter, Rosetta, was born

• In 1839, Douglass subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator; Garrison was one of the organizers of the American Antislavery Society

• In 1841, Douglass spoke about his life as a slave at the Massachusetts Antislavery Society convention and got hired as a speaker for the Society; he also became closely tied with William Lloyd Garrison and his views

• In 1845, Douglass published Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

• In February 1863, during the civil war, Douglass was a recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, which was the first regiment of all African-American soldiers

• From 1865 to 1895, Douglass lectured on women's rights

• In 1877, Douglass was appointed U. S. Marshal of the District of Columbia by U. S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, making Douglass the first African-American confirmed for Presidential appointment by the U. S. Senate

• In 1881, Douglass published another biography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass


Sources:

http://www.loc.gov/collections/frederick-douglass-papers/articles-and-essays/frederick-douglass-timeline/1836-to-1846/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1561.html

http://www.whitehousehistory.org/frederick-douglass

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Douglass (image)

Abolitionist Literature: Uncle Tom's Cabin

• Biography: Harriet Beecher Stowe was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield Connecticut. Harriet was the sixth of eleven children born to her parents Lyman and Roxanna Beecher. Harriet began her educational journey at Sarah Pierce’s Academy and was schooled there for a few years until she became the first student at Hartford Female Seminary founded by her sister, Catherine. In 1832 her family and herself moved to Cincinnati after her father received a new job. After arriving in Cincinnati, Harriet began to realize the effect of slavery and was moved deeply. In 1836 Harriet became a Stowe, marrying Calvin Ellis Stowe. Charles and Harriet had 6 children in Cincinnati. Thier seventh child, Samuel Charles Stowe died at age 18 months from cholera. The pain of losing her child made her understand the pain enslaved mother went through when their child was taken away and that is what inspired her to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet continued writing and being a spokesperson for slaves throughout her and her husband's retirement. After retirement they relocated to Hartford Connecticut and remained there for 23 years. In her later years Harriet continued to tour for her books.

• Summary: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to and continues to impact the thoughts and opinions of millions of Americans in both her time and today’s world through making the realities of slavery apparent through the stories of slave mothers. These personal descriptions and explanations of slave families and the emotions felt during these times of evil made the American public realize the severity of slavery. This is why this piece of writing was so influential to the opinions of Americans because it showed them in a way everyone could understand that slavery was ripping families apart.

• Importance: This book inspired a change of heart of millions of Americans because they were able to empathize with the slave families experiencing this destruction. Politics were affected by this social change of mind because leaders began to realize the immorality of the institution of slavery, which in turn created a society that is highly family based and protective of one another.

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Slave Narratives: Narrative of Sojourner Truth

• Biography: Sojourner Truth, formerly known as Isabella Baumfree, was an African American women who fought for the abolition movement and women's rights. She was born into slavery in New York, but escaped with her daughter, leaving her other children behind. As a slave, she was physically and sexually abused by her master. Later, she found her son, Peter, had been sold to a different family and decided to fight for his freedom. In doing so, she became the first black woman to win a court case against a white man. She also has many popular speeches, most notable, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
• Summary: In Sojourner Truth’s Narrative, she speaks about her experiences as a slave and what all she went through. She talks about her family and her faith and how dedicated she was to the both of them. After escaping slavery, she successfully beat a white man in a court case for the first time ever. Not stopping there, she continued to follow the Lord and speak about things He felt she needed to speak about, especially slavery and women's rights. Later, with the help of others, she created and published her autobiography in order to make enough money to buy herself a home. This piece shows great evidence that someone like Sojourner Truth, both a woman and African American, could be a powerful member of society. Starting off as a slave, to achieving freedom and making a reasonable income, Sojourner Truth had what it took to be a free American, just as many others in that time did.
• Inspiration: As Sojourner was isolated as a slave, she found her way to God and began worshipping him. Sojourner found much of her inspiration and strength from the Lord and obeyed to Him. After God told Truth to walk away from slavery, she did just that. From then on, she lived simply, following the commands of the Holy Spirit. This is where she found her inspiration and her actions came from what she felt God was calling her to do.
• Importance: As readers learn about the story of Sojourner Truth, they see that she has everything that it takes to be an important member of society. While looking at what she went through, Americans can see how cruel and wrong slavery was. Also, looking at her successes, Americans can see that she is just as qualified to be free, like other Americans. Just because she is a woman and she is black does not mean that she deserves to be treated any less than a white male, and that is made very evident in her narrative.


Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/sojourner_truth.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth

http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/truth50/summary.html

Conclusion

While looking at the writings of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Sojourner Truth, Americans can gain a sense of how unfairly slaves were treated and realize the equality that slaves deserved. Sojourner Truth, an African-American, started off as a slave. After escaping slavery on her own, she became a respectable speaker and soon made a living for herself. From this, Americans can see how African-Americans were just as capable of success as whites, and should not be confined to slavery. Next, as a white woman in society, Harriet Beecher Stowe spoke out against slavery and the cruel nature of it. After losing her child, Harriet was able to empathize with the enslaved mothers whose children were taken away from them. Her impact on the mindset of millions of Americans allowed for American social and political change to begin going towards helping end slavery once and for all. Lastly, Frederick Douglass influenced American values, politics, and society by speaking out against slavery and showing Americans that slavery was an inhumane practice. He also wrote biographies detailing his life as a slave, which served to show how slaves were treated and furthered his protests. These three figures conveyed that slavery was no longer a necessity and that it should be abolished.