Unit 7: The Slavery Controversy and Abolitionist Literature

7a. Summarize the ways in which Africans resist slavery and the impact of this resistance as well as who was involved in anti-slavery movements and the arguments they used to advance their cause.
  1. Summarize the ways in which Africans resist slavery and the impact of this resistance.
  2. Who were involved in anti-slavery movements?
  3. What arguments did those involved use to advance their cause?

Africans resisted slavery in African countries by creating defensive measures in their villages and launching attacks against arriving slave ships. If none of these tactics worked, they ran away and formed new communities farther inland. They also rebelled after they were taken aboard the slave ships and even once they were installed in US or Caribbean plantations. Many opposed slavery. Probably most notably were the Protestants and Quakers in the US. They argued that slaves were human beings and had the capacities to learn just as whites did. Many made moral arguments and some even offered philosophical points about slavery being an unnatural practice. Review "Resistance and Abolition" for more information.


7b. Grasp how slavery relates to ideas of manifest destiny, the seemingly boundless Western expansion, and the Mexican American War.
  1. Grasp how slavery relates to ideas of manifest destiny, the seemingly boundless Western expansion, and the Mexican American War.
  2. What kinds of arguments do those in favor of slavery make in regards to manifest destiny, Western expansion, and the Mexican American War?

Manifest destiny and Western expansion would allow for slavery to expand even further than it already had. Those proponents of the practice thought this geographic expansion would help their cause and stop the abolitionist movement. In terms of the Mexican American War, those in favor of slavery saw this as an opportunity to expand the institution further west and south and thought it would help them win the argument about slavery. See "Manifest Destiny" and "The Mexican War" for further information about the connections between these topics.


7c. Define the key abolitionist arguments of Garrison, Walker, and Mott and distinguish their approaches from one another.
  1. Define the key abolitionist arguments of Garrison, Walker, and Mott.
  2. How do their arguments differ from one another?
  3. How are their arguments the same?

Walker's Appeal was directed toward slaves and advocated a violent resistance to slavery as the only option for freedom. Garrison published The Liberator and in it argued that slavery should end immediately and spoke out against the gradual emancipation of those who were enslaved. Mott was an outspoken reformer and Quaker minister. She fought for abolition alongside other social reform movements like women's rights and temperance. Review these essays on Walker, Garrison, and Mott to help you study.


7d. List the chief features of the slave narrative as a literary genre.
  1. List the chief features of the slave narrative as a literary genre.
  2. What does a slave narrative offer to readers that other genres do not?
  3. How is the slave narrative different from autobiography or memoir?

The slave narrative often traces a slave's journey from enslavement to freedom. The slave him or herself is the protagonist and "I" of the story. Within the text, the author usually included an account of conversion to Christianity for his or her predominantly white readers. It also worked to humanize slaves and show the horrors of the practice to inspire abolition. The stories also helped readers understand that slaves or former slaves had the intellectual capacity to tell their own accounts of what happened to them. The slave narrative, unlike autobiography or memoir alone, offers the slave's voice and is constructed to be used as a tool for abolitionist purposes. The horrors and cruelties recorded help audiences who are out of touch or uninformed about slavery to see how wrong this practice actually is. Review this "Essay on the Slave Narrative" to find an even more comprehensive list of genre characteristics.


7e. Distinguish chief similarities and differences between Douglass' and Jacobs' slave narratives, analyzing the roles gender and genre play in those distinctions.
  1. Distinguish chief similarities and differences between Douglass' and Jacobs' slave narratives.
  2. How do gender roles play a role in the way that Douglass and Jacobs narrate their stories?
  3. Although they are both writing slave narratives, how does the genre work differently for the two of them, allowing a gendered approach to the topic?

As an African American man, Douglass writes his individual story of slavery and his escape to freedom. He deals with extreme violence and pain, but ends up coming to see himself as valuable through literacy. Jacobs, as a women, has to deal with the sexual politics of slavery. In order to protect herself from her master, she gets involved with a free white man and has children with him. This does not put off her master entirely though, and she has to hide in a tiny attic for a long time to take care of herself. She worries constantly about her children and her family. The genre of slave narrative is adaptable to both types of telling. Douglass can tell his story about his individual struggle for freedom, and Jacobs can tell her story about community, family, and personal pain. The content is very different though specifically because of the gendered violence women experienced in slavery. For further review, see "Essay on the Slave Narrative" as well as Douglass' work and Jacobs' account.


7f. Identify key turning points in Douglass' account of achieving freedom.
  1. Identify key turning points in Douglass' account of achieving freedom.
  2. How does Douglass begin his autobiographical account? What significance does this have?
  3. How does Douglass ultimately achieve freedom?

Douglass begins his slave narrative with "I was born", which announces him as a human being and person of value. He narrates his path to literacy and discusses how it shaped his views about his own self worth. He shows the horrors of slavery and evokes empathy on the part of his readers. He ends up escaping from his most violent master through intelligence and clever action. For further review, see "Essay on the Slave Narrative" and Douglass' work.


7g. Outline the ways that Jacobs appeals specifically to women readers in the North.
  1. Outline the ways that Jacobs appeals specifically to women readers in the North.
  2. What insights does Jacobs offer that Douglass does not?
  3. How does Jacobs protect herself from her master's sexual advances?

Ultimately, Jacobs asks white readers in the North, specifically women, not to judge her decision to have children out of wedlock. She primarily does this to avoid the sexual advances of her master and hopes that her readers will understand her choices and motivations because of the unique set of difficult circumstances she deals with as both a woman and a slave. Reread "Essay on the Slave Narrative" and Jacobs' account for more information on this point.


7h. Describe Stowe's appeal to her readers in Uncle Tom's Cabin and formulate hypotheses to explain its incredible popularity despite stereotypical representations of women and African Americans.
  1. Describe Stowe's appeal to her readers in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  2. What explains the incredible popularity of this text despite its stereotypical representations of women and African Americans?
  3. What does Stowe end up arguing about slavery?

Stowe's ultimate purpose in writing this text is to inspire abolitionist work. She appeals to her readers, however, through the politics of Christian, family dynamics. She asks readers to think about what it would be like to be separated from a child or mother or father or sibling. She wants readers to offer sympathy and empathy to those who are broken apart from their families in slavery. The stereotypical representations of African Americans and women perhaps appealed to readers' own prejudices or weren't as off-putting to them as the powerful message about family love. For more insight, reread "Essay on Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Stowe's novel.


7i. Analyze the role of Christianity, motherhood, and racialist representations in the antislavery arguments of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  1. Analyze the role of Christianity in the antislavery arguments apparent in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  2. How does motherhood enter into the discussion of this antislavery text?
  3. What is the difference between racialist and racist representations?

In Stowe's famous work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, she uses moral arguments steeped in Christian values to influence her readers to see the immorality of slavery. She appeals to her readers' emotions by showing the inhumane nature of slavery as it separates families, especially mothers from children. Some criticize Stowe's use of stereotypical and caricatured African American characters; however, Stowe knew her white readership well and played on their prejudices to help prove her larger points about the ills and horrors of slavery. Revisit the "Essay on Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Stowe's novel to further understand the relationships between these complex representations.


Unit 7 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • African Resistance to Enslavement
  • Slave Trade
  • Slavery in the US
  • Plantation Culture
  • Fugitive Slave Act/Law
  • Resistance
  • Self Preservation and Survival
  • Sexual Politics and Slavery
  • Abolition
  • Antislavery Movements
  • Slave Narrative
  • Gender and the Slave Narrative
  • Memoir
  • Domestic Sentimentalism
  • Cult of Womanhood
  • Gender and Race Stereotypes
  • Racialism vs. Racism
Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 4:08 PM