An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism With reference to the duty of American females

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I am no advocate of passivity. Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. A very successful and famous novelist in the s, Child's popularity plummeted when she outraged her readers with the publication of her first abolitionist piece in , An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans.

With chapters that delineated the "Brief History of Negro Slavery" and offered a "Comparative View of Slavery, in Different Ages and Nations," Child's Appeal presented a rational argument in favor of immediate abolition of slavery and, most radically at the time, full integration of African Americans into society. Child situated her Appeal in logical, rather than sentimental, reasoning, and the ruinous consequences of that decision on her career indicate the restrictions women writers faced. For the most part, after she was vilified for participating in a masculine tradition, Child shifted her political campaign into her sentimental fiction writing, a genre carved out by and, mostly, for women.

The Boston-based antislavery gift book series The Liberty Bell , which ran from to , provided the ideal forum for Child's abolitionist fiction. Child's Liberty Bell stories exemplify the emotionally charged emphasis on slavery's devastation of family and home that would become conventional in abolitionist fiction. In the short story "Charity Bowery" , for example, the title character, a former slave, tells the narrator the story of how she came to be separated from each of her sixteen children.

In this illustration of slavery's desecration of the mother-child bond, Child portrays the slave mother's struggle to keep her children and her tearful memories of how she lost each of them, including one that was killed by his master. Two other Liberty Bell stories, "The Quadroons" and "Slavery's Pleasant Homes" , both expose the incompatibility of the slavery institution with monogamous marriage, a critique that developed into a common element of abolitionist fiction. Child's short fiction helped to establish some of the major literary tropes to emerge from abolitionist fiction, including, most notoriously, the "tragic mulatto" convention, which would turn into a permanent fixture in American literature , as writers across different perspectives and eras would adopt, adapt, revise, criticize, and respond to the trope in their own literature.

Child and other nineteenth-century white fiction writers typically represented the tragic mulatto as a beautiful, nearly white woman, the offspring of a white slave holder and his black female slave.

Catherine Beecher – History of American Women

With often only one-eighth black ancestry or, "octoroon" and tragically unaware of her own and her mother's racial background, the tragic mulatto character usually falls in love with a white man who eventually either dies or abandons her, remanding her to slavery. Over a century after the popularization of the tragic mulatto figure, the African American writer and literary scholar Sterling Brown points out that the white writers' "favorite character, the octoroon, wretched because of the 'single drop of midnight in her veins,' desires a white lover above all else, and must therefore go down to a tragic end" p.

Despite the popularity of Child's antislavery fiction, Uncle Tom's Cabin would become the most recognizable example of sentimental abolitionist fiction, even though Harriet Beecher Stowe had arrived relatively late to the abolitionist literature scene. In addition to her legendary and controversial novel, Stowe herself practiced the conventions of sentimental anti-slavery fiction in a few "sketches," or short stories.

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Like Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe wrote "The Two Altars; or, Two Pictures in One" in response to the Fugitive Slave Law of , a federal law that prohibited the harboring or aiding of fugitive slaves anywhere in the country, making it harder than ever for a slave to escape to the North. In that short story , Stowe uses domestic settings and emotional family scenes to illustrate the discrepancies between the nation's founding principles and the enactment of a federal law protecting the system of slavery. After her remarkable entrance into the abolitionist movement, Stowe wrote a second abolitionist novel, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp , which, although very popular in the nineteenth century, was virtually erased from the twentieth-century memory of the writer and of abolitionist literature.

Nevertheless, Dred has been recognized as Stowe's attempt to revise her own representations of race in Uncle Tom's Cabin —representations which even many of her contemporaries criticized. In Dred, Stowe creates a revolutionary, rather than submissive, African American title character, and she abandons the Colonization agenda that concluded her first abolitionist novel.


Otherwise, this novel maintains the conventional sentimental emphasis on the threat slavery poses to the institutions of family and monogamous marriage. Significantly, Dred even extends that warning beyond the traditional portrayal of weak and impossible slave families to represent fragmented and dysfunctional slaveholding families, as well.

For the most part, the representations of race politics that came from white-authored abolitionist fiction would go uncontested until the latter part of the nineteenth century. An extraordinary exception is a text rediscovered by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Angelina Grimké Weld (1805-1879) and Sarah Moore Grimké (1792-1873)

Bringing together conventions from sentimental fiction and the slave narrative tradition, Our Nig tells the story of a mulatto girl, who, in a significant reversal of the "tragic mulatto" trope, is abandoned by her white mother after the death of her black father. Ironically, the circumstances of Wilson's single-known literary production would seem fitting in a sentimentalist novel, as her novel's candid preface explains that she has written it in order to make a living to support her only son, who, according to historical records, ended up dying from "fever" six months later.

Hardly an abolitionist piece, Our Nig would surely have angered white abolitionists with its account of a free black indentured servant's struggle against Northern racism in antebellum America. Wilson's novel nevertheless plays an important role in the history of abolitionist writing because it serves as an important countertext to the representations and stereotypes that emerged from the abolitionist movement.

Another African American writer who adopted sentimentalist conventions in her antebellum writing, often vacillating between adherence to and subversion of those conventions, is Frances Ellen Watkins Harper — Harper was an abolitionist lecturer, poet, and fiction writer, and her literary productions in the s reflect her keen awareness of the trends in sentimentalist antislavery literature.

Poems such as "To Mrs. Although twentieth-century critics would dismiss her for her poetry's apparent alignment with the white perspective, several poems published alongside of these examples, including "The Slave Mother" , seem to resituate white-centered sentimental-ist conventions in the context of African American authorship. Also, in several poems narrated by her "Aunt Chloe" character, Harper adds dimension to the "mammy" figure stereotyped in fiction and minstrelsy.

Eventually, in her novel Iola Leroy, which she sets in the Reconstruction Era, Harper would rewrite the "tragic mulatto" trope made famous in white-authored sentimental fiction, endowing the typically disempowered figure with political agency and racial consciousness. Although her light-skinned heroine still corresponded in many ways to white-authored representations, Harper's rewriting of the most ubiquitous convention of sentimental abolitionist writing would mark the beginning of more radical revisions by African American women writers, from Zora Neale Hurston to Toni Morrison , reflecting the far-reaching impact of abolitionist writing on the history of American literature.

Beecher, Catharine E. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Modern Library, Garnet, Henry Highland. Peter Ripley, pp. Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Walker, David. Walker's Appeal. Introduction by Sean Wilentz. New York: Hill and Wang, Whittier, John Greenleaf.

Edited by Horace E. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, They then bound their arms, and drove them before them to the canoes. But if females cannot influence their nearest friends, to urge forward a public measure in this way, they surely are out of their place, in attempting to do it themselves. The works you have shown me, are not the works of brutes, but of men endued with rational and intellectual powers, and capable of being brought to as high a degree of proficiency as any other men. Africa ought to be allowed to have a fair chance of raising her character in the scale of the civilized world.

It was but one gloomy subject from morning to night. In the daytime I was uneasy. Bettle, who regularly visited his cousin, contracted the disease and died from it shortly thereafter. They confessed their love for each other in letters in February He replied "you are full of pride and anger" and then in letters twice the size of the rest he wrote: "And I have loved you since the first time I met you.

Sarah lived with the couple in New Jersey, and the sisters continued to correspond and visit with their friends in the abolitionist and emerging women's rights movements. They operated a school in their home, and later a boarding school at Raritan Bay Union , a utopian community. At the school, they taught the children of other noted abolitionists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In the years after the Civil War, they raised funds to pay for the graduate education of their two mixed-race nephews, the sons of their brother Henry W.

Archibald became a lawyer and later an ambassador to Haiti and Francis became a Presbyterian minister. Both became leading civil rights activists.

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An essay on slavery and abolitionism : with reference to the duty of American females

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Charleston , South Carolina. Hyde Park , Massachusetts. Retrieved September 21, National Women's History Museum. Retrieved November 10, New York: Schocken Books. University of North Carolina Press. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Angelina Grimké

Digitized by Google. Retrieved American Quarterly. Retrieved September 24, New York: Vintage Books. Reprint at utc. Retrieved April 11, American Political Thought : — Elizabeth A. Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved June 4, National Women's Hall of Fame greatwomen. Boston Women's Heritage Trail. Inductees to the National Women's Hall of Fame. Margaret Sanger Sojourner Truth. Carrie Chapman Catt Frances Perkins.

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