In the 1820s, 1830, and 1840s, the Second Great Awakening helped to inspire a reformist impulse across the nation. One of those movements centered on an effort to abolish slavery in the United States; of course, the desire to eliminate slavery did not go unchallenged. In this activity, you will examine the views of antislavery (abolitionist) and proslavery writers in the antebellum years. This essay will help you better understand a controversy that permeated American life in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Read the following pro- and anti-slavery documents
George Fitzhugh Advocates Slavery
Disease and Peculiarities of the Negro Race
James Henry Hammond Advocates Slavery
David Walker’s Appeal
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
The American Anti-Slavery Society: Declaration of Sentiments
Focus QuestionsConsider these questions as you read through the above sources (ALL of these questions need to be addressed in your essay):
Proslavery authors1. How do these authors justify slavery?2. According to these authors, what place do slaves have in society?3. What derisive stereotypes of African Americans are found in these proslavery documents?
Abolitionist authors1. Why do they believe slavery needs to be abolished? 2. What specific criticisms do they have about American society?3. How do these authors view African Americans (in contrast to the stereotypes offered by proslavery authors)? How do the authors view African Americans place in society?
DirectionsYour essay should be a minimum of 2 pages, and you should spend AT LEAST one page discussing EACH position (one page discussing the proslavery perspective and one page discussing the abolitionist perspective). Remember, two pages is the minimum, and minimum essays normally score a C. If you want a higher grade, plan to be comprehensive in your coverage of the readings (there is no maximum page limit). Your answer should reflect the main points from each assigned reading, and ALL of the above readings should be addressed in your essay. Use examples from the readings to illustrate your main points.
Be sure to proof your essay before submitting it as errors in grammar and spelling will lead to a deduction in points. Use quotations when using the exact wording from the reading and cite the reading at the end of the sentence [ex: if you quoted from the Walker reading, simply put (Walker) at the end of the reading – this lets me know which reading the quote is taken from]. As per the instructions in the syllabus, most of the essay should be in your own words and include your own analysis of the readings. I would encourage you to re-read the section in the syllabus that addresses expectations for essays.
When you write your essay, don’t just go reading by reading; rather, see what common themes are found in the readings for both perspectives and write paragraphs based on themes rather than examining each reading individually. Yes, this requires more thought, but then your essay won’t read like an extended book report on each article. If you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help.
Use only the above sources for this assignment: DO NOT USE ANY OUTSIDE SOURCES FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT. If you do, you will receive a “0” for the assignment. Your essay should be uploaded as Word document (no PDF files).
Let me conclude with a comment about the content of these readings. The first set of readings that discuss the proslavery perspective can make for difficult reading. Simply put, they can offend our modern sensibilities with their perspective on race. The goal of this assignment is to provide you with a historical context of how people viewed race and slavery in the 19th century, so sometimes it is necessary to read offensive documents like this to understand why people acted and behaved the way they did in the past. Please know that by discussing these documents, it in no way means that you approve or support what they say; rather, you are doing exactly what historians do — learn about the past and make observations based on available evidence.
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