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Literature as Resistance in the Anti-Slavery Movement

Powerful Essays
Different Voices, One Message: Literature as Resistance in the Anti-Slavery Movement

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

The struggle for emancipation was not one which began and ended with the Civil War. African Americans during the period of slavery had very few options left to them regarding their own freedom. The law that held them in slavery could not be trusted to emancipate them. For those who were fortunate enough to have obtained their freedom, the only power they had they had in the abolitionist fight was the power of the written word. African American writers used varying writing styles to carry their message across. Some used pious and moral instruction, others used political exhortation and social prophecy, but all were delivered in a distinctly vintage nineteenth century rhetorical vein which was evocative and powerful.

RESISTANCE THROUGH MORAL AND CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION

Harriet Jacobs and Maria W. Stewart assert that slavery produces deprivation and degradation on its helpless victims. It is a disadvantage to blacks because it robs them of the opportunity for virtue, morality and enlightenment. Jacobs argues that slavery is as much a curse to whites as it is to blacks. She demonstrates this point by showing how the morality of each is corrupted. Stewart in turn affirms that slavery prevents blacks from fulfilling their God-given potential and deprives them from true self-actualization. Both authors' work would have been received by predominantly white abolitionists and it is to this audience that they plead their case.

HARRIET JACOBS

In Harriet Jacobs' autobiography, Incidents In the Life Of a Slave Girl, she asserts that slavery is a curse to the nation and is a factor in the breakdown of the ...

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...b page] Nov 1998; http://www.monticello.org/Matters/people/hemings_resource.html [Accessed 20 Nov 1998].

BOOK REFERENCES:

Douglass, Frederick. "Classic Slave Narratives". Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, N.Y: Penguin Group, 1987. 245-331.

Garnet, Henry Highland. "An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America." The Norton Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates and Nellie Y. Mckay. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1997. 279-286.

Jacobs, Harriet. "Classic Slave Narrative". Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, N.Y: Penguin Group, 1987. 333-513.

Stewart, Maria W. "Lecture Delivered at the Franklin Hall." The Norton Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates and Nellie Y. McKay. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1997. 204-207.

Walker, David. (1995). David Walker's Appeal. Canada: Harper Collins.
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