The Path To Aboliton Essay

1626 words - 7 pages

Abolitionists from the 1820-1860 found it necessary to use certain strategies to appeal to the social and political minds of Americans striving to influence the participation of the abolition movement. One of the many strategies used by American abolitionists was the use of slave narratives. This moral persuasion was a very useful tactic. The creation of these narratives helped white northerners identify with the mindset of an African American slave in the south. The narratives illustrated the experiences slaves overcame to find freedom. Another major strategy that was useful to the slavery movement was the involvement of women abolitionists. As abolitionists, they started reaching out to ...view middle of the document...

The following quote is from Georgia’s Slave Codes from 1848. “Punishment for teaching slaves or free persons of color to read. -- If any slave, Negro, or free person of color, or any white person, shall teach any other slave, Negro, or free person of color, to read or write either written or printed characters, the said free person of color or slave shall be punished by fine and whipping, or fine or whipping, at the discretion of the court.” For many people this placed a wedge in teaching those enslaved African Americans.
For those who managed to learn literacy and escape the life of slavery to freedom a whole new world was available to them. The ability to write sparked the growth of a powerful genre of literature: the slave narrative. Once published, the slave narratives powerfully exposed the evils of slavery. These narratives become a very effective strategy in the abolition movement, spreading the most powerful voices which contradicted slaveholders’ claims on practice of slavery itself. The existence of these accounts allowed African Americans to show the world their mastery of language and the ability to write their own history.
One example of such a writer was Fredrick Douglass. He was one of the most famous leaders of the abolitionist movement. After he escaped slavery, he published his story, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, which sold over 30,000 copies between 1845 and 1860. Douglass’s decent into the most brutal conditions of slavery were described in his work as well as his desire to be free. Throughout his story the main focus leans more toward the spiritual and mental aspects of slavery, rather than the cruel and physical punishments he and many others endured. In The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas he writes, “My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” In one sense the narrative is the story of a slave becoming free, but it also is the story of how all men and women are made into slaves.
In addition to Frederick, there were many individuals that published their stories for the world to read and criticize. Another famous narrative was written by Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Harriet’s story was unique for its time being that she used her experiences as a slave and as a free person of the North to her advantage. She knew just want she needed to do in order to gain the women of the North to support the abolitionist’s movement. The purpose of Harriet telling her story was to portray slave masters as the ultimate antagonist.
The following quote does a great job of explaining this philosophy: “Dr. Flint had sworn that he would make me suffer, to my last day, for this new crime against him, as he called it; and as long as he had me in his power he kept his word.” The purpose of this was to...

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