Abolitionist Literature Activity
by: Anna Wakefield, Mara Monroy, Helen Xiu, and Sana Suhail
Fredrick Douglass, A Resume
-Born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland
-His mistress, Sophia Auld, taught him to read when he was 12 years old. After she was forbidden to teach him, he continued to learn from white children.
-He was sent to work for Edward Covey, who nearly broke him psychologically through physical abuse. However, Douglass fought back.
-He attempted to flee slavery twice and succeeded on his second attempt. He married a free black woman named Anna
-He wrote multiple biographies going into great depth about his life as his slave and his determination to be free and gain freedom for fellow blacks in America.
-Supported women’s rights and abolitionist movements through direct involvement.
-During the Civil War, he was a propagandist for the Union; he recruited troops and was an advisor to Abraham Lincoln on more than one occasion.
-Travelled widely and lectured on racial issues, women’s rights, and national politics,
-Was appointed marshal and recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia
-Widely known as a voice for human social justice
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Born on June 14, 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was the sixth of eleven children. Her mother died when Harriet was only five, so she decided to honor her through paintings and drawings. She was enrolled at a girls school run by her sister that focused on traditional education; reading, math, and history. At the age of 7, she entered an essay contest at her school and won, gaining the approval of her father.
Years later, at age 21, Harriet Beecher Stowe joined the Semicolon Club, a literary salon and social club. There she met her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, a widower and strong critic of slavery. One day she had a vision of a dying slave, which inspired her to begin to write. At age 40, the first installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in the National Era newspaper. This passage and others to come helped the North understand the effects of slavery feel empathy for the slaves. Southerners refused to admit the truth, creating “Anti-Tom” novels, but those proved to be unsuccessful to the rising Abolitionist movement.
Summary: This book was able to make a major impact because it was published at a very sensitive time for the nation. Where most people in the north were unaware of the true horrors of slavery and many in the south refused to view it negatively due to the “benefits” it brought, this book, with its strong emotional appeal and aggressive diction was very successful in evoking emotion. From the northerners, it evoked fear and concern for they were never aware. As for the southerners, it was intended to evoke empathy for the slaves. As a result, it created anger and many southerners took offense
Importance: Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspired change through the realization of the need to change. The eyes of the Northerners and Southerners alike were opened to various horrors impacting the nation in plantations. We began to reconsider how we structured society. The slaves of the South were looked at as property, but through the strong message and imagery of the book, we experienced a sense of hypocrisy. This realization allowed society to begin a turning point in society because now we wanted to prove our values a reality.
Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Bell, A Black Man, Who Lived Forty Years in Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia As a Slave Under Various Masters, and was One Year in the Navy with Commodore Barney, During the Late War
Bell was born on a plantation in Maryland, and at age four, he was separated from his family when his mother and siblings were sold to another owner. Bell would never see them again. When he married a slave from a neighboring plantation, Bell was separated from her when he himself was sold. He was moved to Georgia, where he was forced to escape slavery or bear the hand of his new, even crueler owners. He returned to Maryland as a fugitive slave, but was recaptured soon after. Bell escaped again and relocated to Pennsylvania
This piece is powerful to the abolitionist movement because it illustrates in great detail the immense struggle of the slave life. Born into slavery, Bell experienced immense misfortune even at the beginning of his life upon being separated from his family. Following this tragedy, he suffered extensively at the hands of several different, uniquely cruel masters. The horrors of slavery are revealed in this narrative, and many people found themselves drawn to the abolitionist movement upon discovering the truth.
Bell was inspired to create a biographical narrative in order to tell a story and communicate the incredible hardships slaves must bear and the precariousness of their lives at the hands of their masters.
The narrative inspires changes in American values, politics, and society by breaking the complacency of the general populace towards slavery. The controversial nature of this narrative drilled a hole in the very institution of slavery and caused many to begin questioning its practice.