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Slavery Literature Review Essay


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Slavery Literature Review

The slavery literature during the antebellum period in American history is seen as the source of raising awareness and bringing up the human rights movement.  The slavery literature later influences the antislavery literature, most of which is written during the postbellum. This type of literature includes poems, songs, and articles that explain the slavery experience, written to the white readers to understand that the black people who are the slaves also deserve to have their rights for they are human.

Slavery literature, written in the form of autobiography narratives, mainly records white supremacy, which happens from the eighteenth to the late nineteenth century( Kelly,171-189). This literature helps in giving black people a voice even though it is often written off.  The writers of the slavery literature paint slavery as extreme deprivation of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, making them live as if in hell. This expression, complimented by faith in God, make the black people declare a stand in their participation in the antislavery activities, which is the beginning of their fight for freedom. In this period, some of the authors include William Wells Brown who’s narrative “a fugitive slave” is one of the most-read stories. It exposes the struggles of the people of mixed races and criticizes the Christians who owned slaves. In his autobiography, Fredrick Douglas writes of his life as a slave and how he gets to realize the need for freedom not only for himself but also for his fellow slaves. He highlights how he attains education and gets to help president Abraham Lincoln during the civil war and later works on being a strict and committed abolitionist. Through his narratives, many reformers and activists get inspired to continue fighting human and civil rights for other slaves.

The antebellum period sees to the birth of many abolitionists who help fight for human rights through their literature and lead to the beginning of the civil war. Abolitionists such as Harriet Becher Stowe, the author of uncle toms’ cabin, and David Walker, the author of “appeal to the colored citizens of the world,” are among the most influential literary writers fighting for human rights for the slaves(Stevenson,413-489). They use various measures to raise awareness and recruit as many people as possible to the antislavery movement. For example, David Walker’s narrative used to be transported through the slaves’ pockets and sold to the southern sailors. His content causes fear to the slave owners because his record calls upon slaves to actively fight for their freedom and renounce their allegiance to their owners. His literature does not produce the desired results, for he ends up dead slaves learning or reading is prohibited for slaves. However, his book is republished after his death, and his words are still alive today. Harriet Becher writes, “uncle Tom’s cabin” to push the denouncement of slavery and fight for freedom in American history. Harriet’s narrative might have contributed to the civil war since its one of the most sold books right before the civil war.

The post-civil war period has writers such as Harriet Becher, Booker T Washington, William Styron, and Toni Morrison literature influenced by their quest to fight for the slaves’ rights. Apart from “Uncle Tom’s cabin narrative” before the civil war, Harriet also writes “the key to uncle toms’ cabin” after the civil war, including testimonials and legal cases that prove serious charges of slavery to those who criticize her work. In his book “up from slavery,” Booker T Washington describes his own experiences and path to freedom, which acts as a motivation to other reformers to push on their fight for rights and liberties because slavery still goes on after the civil war though not intense. William Styron writes the book “the confessions of a nat turner,” and Toni Morrison’s “beloved” are seen to trigger debates about slave’s freedom.

In conclusion, slavery and antislavery literature during the pre and post-civil war periods are seen to influence the motivation of the slaves to fight for their rights ad break free from slavery. The authors who are string abolitionists are also seen to look for ways to get their literature read and pass the message of revolt against the white slaveholders, which is a critical factor in acquiring human rights.

Works Cited

Kelley, Sean M. “Twelve Years a Slave and the ‘Unthinkability ‘of Enslaved Autobiography.” Biography and History in Film. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019. 171-189.

Stevenson, Ana. “The” Great Doctrine of Human Rights”: Articulation and Authentication in the Nineteenth-Century US Antislavery and Women’s Rights Movements.” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 8.3 (2017): 413-439.

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