Literature’s Effect During the Abolitionist Movement
Throughout American history, literature has been used to bring social injustices into public view. One successful example of this was anti-slavery work written before and during the Abolitionist Movement. Abolitionist literature began to appear predominantly in 1820. Until the Civil War, the anti-slavery press produced a steadily growing stream of newspaper articles, periodicals, sermons, children's publications, speeches, abolitionist society reports, broadsides, poems, and memoirs of former slaves. These works, initially a grass roots effort, led to increased support for the end of slavery. Through the use of vivid imagery and life experiences these authors were able to show their readers the crimes against humanity caused by slavery.
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134–135, 538–539; Negro Year Book (Tuskegee, Ala.: Negro Year Book, 1913), p. 75; Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (1891; New York: Arno, 1969).
These publications helped launch Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Stowe’s series of articles originally published in The National Era and later as a book has been referred to as the single most effective action taken to end slavery (outside of the Civil War.)
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” tells the story of several Southern families who live within the confines of slavery. The characters have different feelings about the society they live in, but they do share one common belief—the belief that they cannot change the social structure in which they exist. Stowe demonstrates how this feeling of helplessness only strengthens slavery’s grip on society. Stowe illustrates how prejudice and separation, if accepted and unchallenged, deny any chance of a happy home.