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The "Backbone" of the Antislavery Movement During the Antebellum Period

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Danielle Darakjian

on 11 January 2014

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Transcript of The "Backbone" of the Antislavery Movement During the Antebellum Period

The"Backbone" of the Antislavery Movement During the Antebellum Period
The Conflicting Views of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
A Sense of Culture, Community, and Kinship
America The Story of Us: Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman with rescued slaves
Harriet Tubman as an Important Figure of the Antislavery Movement
Harriet Tubman was a mainstay of the antislavery movement and a source of inspiration for many slaves, helping them to see freedom as less of a hopeful aspiration and more of an achievable right.
Harriet Tubman in a letter to President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 (quoted by Lydia Maria Child)
William Still's Diary Entry About Harriet Tubman
"Great fears were entertained for her safety, but she was wholly devoid of personal fear. The idea of being captured by slave-hunters or slave holders, seemed never to enter her mind."
-William Still (diary entry about Harriet Tubman)
Sliding Shelves in a home in Gettysburg
Harriet Tubman during the Civil War
She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war
Tubman led the Combahee River Raid, which liberated over 700 slaves in South Carolina
Reward Notice for Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman as Moses
Harriet Tubman was known as "Moses" because she led slaves from slavery in the South to freedom in the North, in the same way that Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom
Her responsibility to the abolitionist cause and freeing slaves was greater than her fear of being captured; Harriet was not daunted by what might have happened to her if she had been captured
During her trips to and from Maryland, she would not allow any of her passengers to turn back because they would then be a threat to the secrecy of the Underground Railroad
She threatened some of the more fearful passengers with a gun and said, "a live runaway could do great harm by going back, but a dead one could tell no secrets," hoping to instill upon them the idea that returning to slavery is not an option
"America the Story of Us: Harriet Tubman." YouTube. 20 May 2010. YouTube. 21 Dec. 2013 <
Culture Assisting the Underground Railroad
Sambol-Tosco, Kimberly. "The Slave Experience: Education, Arts, & Culture: Historical Overview." PBS. PBS. 03 Jan. 2014 <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/education/history.html>.
Hidden Messages in Music
Harris, Joel C. Project Gutenberg. 09 Aug. 2007. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22282/22282-h/22282-h.htm>.
The Quilt Code
Bear's Paw. Grandma's Hands, Smith Robinson Museum. Jackson Free Press. 10 Dec. 2008. 03 Jan. 2014 <http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2008/dec/10/freedom-codes/>.
Cheney, William H. Harriet Tubman With Slaves, Civil War Era. 1885. The New York Times, Auburn, NY. Wikipedia. 12 Mar. 2010. 21 Dec. 2013 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harriet_Tubman,_with_rescued_slaves,_New_York_Times.JPG>.
"Three Hundred Dollars Reward." Advertisement. Cambridge Democrat 03 Oct. 1849: 79.
Psihoyos, Louie. The Battle Over Slavery, Gettysburg, PA. History Today. The History Channel. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.history.com/photos/slavery-the-battle-over-slavery/photo4#>.
This notice offers a reward for the capture of Minty, or Araminta Ross (aka Harriet Tubman).
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland
In 1849, she ran away with her brothers, who returned out of fear of being captured
Tubman returned to Maryland 19 times and helped approximately 300 slaves escape, despite a $40,000 reward for her capture
She befriended and was well respected by leading abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass
Tubman also worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse, and a spy during the Civil War
. . . God won't let Master Lincoln beat the South until he does the right thing. Master Lincoln, he's a great man, and I'm a poor Negro but this Negro can tell Master Lincoln how to save money and young men. He can do it by setting the Negroes free. Suppose there was an awful big snake down there on the floor. He bites you. Folks all scared, because you may die. You send for doctor to cut the bite; but the snake is rolled up there, and while the doctor is doing it, he bites you again. The doctor cuts out that bite; but while he's doing it, the snake springs up and bites you again, and so he keeps doing it, till you kill him. That's what Master Lincoln ought to know. . . .
Tubman, Harriet. Letter to Abraham Lincoln. 21 Jan. 1862. Columbia American History Online. 2004. 22 Dec. 2013 <http://caho-test.cc.columbia.edu/ps/10177.html>.
"Harriet Tubman." PBS. PBS. 22 Dec. 2013 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1535.html>.
Runaway slaves would behind these shelves in the home of Reverend Alexander Dobbin
"Harriet Tubman biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.biography.com/people/harriet-tubman-9511430?page=1>.
"The Life of Harriet Tubman." The Life of Harriet Tubman - New York History Net. 01 Jan. 2014 <http://www.nyhistory.com/harriettubman/life.htm>.
Harriet Tubman's fearlessness was noticed and admired by many of the leading abolitionists of the day
With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which increased risks for escaped slaves, Tubman was in even greater danger
Nevertheless, she returned to Maryland to rescue her family and other slaves
Boerner, Gerald. "Prof. Boerner's Explorations." S RSS. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=5039>.
Despite a warrant for her capture, Harriet Tubman returned to the South to help other slaves escape to freedom.
Harriet Tubman was extremely concerned with the issue of slavery, so she wrote a letter (through Lydia Child) to President Lincoln. Her dedication to the cause inspired others.
A picture of Harriet Tubman with some of the slaves she helped escape
The fugitives had to stay in hidden compartments in order to avoid detection, but Harriet Tubman was not intimidated by the possibility of being caught.
"Tubman During the Civil War." Tubman During the Civil War. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.americaslibrary.gov/aa/tubman/aa_tubman_spy_3.html>.
As a nurse, she used folk remedies to cure illnesses
She used geraniums and the roots of water lilies to cure dysentery
Tubman was a cook, a nurse, a scout, and a spy for the Union Army
Harriet Tubman turned her beliefs into actions; she helped the abolitionist cause through dangerous rescue missions and serving others
Tubman organized a group of former slaves who searched for rebel camps and reported the movement of the Confederate troops
She accompanied a gunboat raid in South Carolina in 1863, and due to the inside information she had acquired, the Union was able to surprise the Confederate rebels
"I could have freed more, if I could have only convinced them they were slaves"
-Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was "far more effective as the symbol that they feared than the few hundred that she saved."
She "had the courage to do what [was] right even at peril to [her]self."
She cared about the well-being of others, and could not live idly in freedom knowing that many slaves were still in the South.
Tubman endangered her own life in order to bring meaning to others' lives , and her unwavering bravery encouraged other slaves to escape to freedom.
As a pioneer, Tubman altered the mind set of slaves by instilling steadfast determination in them. She helped them realize that freedom was not as impossible as they had feared.
"America the Story of Us: Harriet Tubman." YouTube. 20 May 2010. YouTube. 21 Dec. 2013 <
This quilt represents a bear's claw, which was one of the well known symbols of the quilt code. The bear claw indicated that slaves should follow the footprints of a bear in order to find water and sources of food.
Ives, Sarah. "Did Quilts Hold Codes to the Underground Railroad?" National Geographic. 05 Feb. 2004. National Geographic Society. 03 Jan. 2014 <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0205_040205_slavequilts.html>.
Although all abolitionists shared the common goal of ending slavery, there were fundamental differences between white abolitionists and black abolitionists that were results of inbuilt prejudices and differing views of how black abolitionists would most effectively influence the antislavery movement. Fredrick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, both integral abolitionists during the antebellum period, were friends who separated as Douglass formed his own ideas and perspectives. Is this merely a disagreement in principles, or is it a kind of unconscious racism built into the mindsets of all whites at the time?
In the Antebellum Period, slaves expressed themselves through their culture.
Storytelling, music, and quilt making were aspects of culture that also contained hidden messages of inspiration and instruction.
These aspects of culture allowed for slaves to keep their spirits up and the Underground Railroad to run more safely.
Slaves' sense of kinship allowed them to stay united and help each other during difficult times; the family and community were valued greatly.
Some songs, like "Follow the Drinking Gourd," contained subtle messages that instructed slaves on how to escape. The Drinking Gourd represented the the Big Dipper, and following the North Star (one of the stars in the constellation) would guide people north.
Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, sounded an urgent call for the abolitionism all across the United States and "preached his own brand of American ideals" . There was clear competition between him and Garrison stemming from their diverging beliefs, causing a split in their friendship. Not only did Douglass start his own newspaper apart from Garrison's
The Liberator
, but they both disagreed over whether the Constitution supported slavery, and disagreed over the right tactics to use in pressing for the end of slavery. Garrison attempted to dissuade Douglass from starting his own newspaper because he knew it would create competition.
"Spirituals as Coded Communication." Sweet Chariot: The story of the spirituals. The Spirituals Project at the University of Denver. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://ctl.du.edu/spirituals/freedom/coded.cfm>.
Many southerners viewed slave culture like music as innocuous until they believed that it would induce rebellion. Even then, they were unaware of the hidden messages contained in song lyrics. Take, for example, the spiritual "Roll, Jordan, Roll". The Jordan is a famous river in the bible, but slaves pictured the Ohio River when they sang this song. The Ohio River was the boundary that separated slaves from freedom. Quilts also helped the Underground Railroad: slaves were familiar with certain quilt patterns, like
Log Cabin
Drunkard's Path
, and
Monkey Wrench
, which were codes that gave directions for safely reaching the North.
Blight, David W. "Frederick Douglass." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. Dec. 2013.
Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History. 02 Jan. 2014 <http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/Cultural_History.htm>.
Blight, David W. "David Blight on Racism in the
Abolitionist Movement." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. Dec. 2013.
Some white abolitionists had a vision of what the "role" of the black abolitionists should be, seeing black abolitionists as a tactic themselves for the anti-slavery movement. Black abolitionists faced these kind of "different agendas" while they wanted equal recognition and reciprocal respect. Therefore, it can be argued that black abolitionists were the only true voices of the antislavery movement because they could not achieve equal rights even with whites who advocated for their liberation. See example on next slide.
"Frederick Douglass Video." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. Dec. 2013.
Thompson, Jay. "Toward Douglassonian Abolitionism:
The Rift Between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison" Frederick Douglass Project: Essay "Toward Douglassonian Abolitionism: The Rift Between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison" University of Rochester, 2002. Web. Dec. 2013.
Douglass, a talented rhetorician, was the voice of many slaves whose cries for freedom could not be heard. However, Garrison and other white abolitionists thought that he sounded too intelligent to be a former slave, and recommended for him to try to sound less educated in order to make the appeal of his story more persuasive. Douglass refused because his priorities were different than the white abolitionists -- he wanted respect. When Douglass acted on his individual plans, he "not receive the same support from Garrison and his American associates". Perhaps Garrison only saw him as "the best instrument that he could find to further his cause", but Douglass had a different agenda.
Frederick Douglass' Paper editorial June 1854. "Is It Right and Wise to Kill a Kidnapper?"


Douglass further parts from Garrison's moral views. Garrison is insistent on nonviolence, while Douglass in his editorial "Is It Right and Wise to Kill a Kidnapper" states that while "he who takes pleasure in human slaughter is very properly looked upon as a moral monster", "such an individual is flung, by his untoward circumstances, upon his original right of self defence". He believes that violent resistance, in some circumstances of the movement, is necessary. He explains that because of the unacceptable way that many Americans see the normal condition of blacks as an inferior race, it is why he calls for "this reproach [to] be wiped out, and nothing short of resistance on the part of colored men, can wipe it out. Every slave-hunter who meets a bloody death in his infernal business, is an argument in favor of the manhood of our race. Resistance is, therefore, wise as well as just." Garrison, who lacks this kind of urgency, does not see violence as necessary to attain freedom for slaves, but Douglass does because this issue is more personal to him, as it is his race that is being demeaned and mistreated.
"Life and Times of Frederick Douglass" by Frederick Douglass, photograph, http://docsouth.unc.edu, Documenting the American South.
"North Star Newspaper", photgraph, http://www.math.buffalo.edu.
Photograph of Frederick Douglass' third autobiography, frontispiece and title page. Douglass was a brilliant writer who had a way with words. He used his skill with the English language to write numerous books and speeches throughout his lifetime.
Photograph of the anti-slavery newspaper published by Douglass. Garrison and other white abolitionists disapproved of Douglass' more independent endeavors such as this.
"The Liberator Newspaper", photograph, http://realcause.wikispaces.com, Real Cause
Photograph of the anti-slavery newspaper founded by Garrison. The newspaper gained national notoriety and was competing with Douglass' newspaper.
Throughout his memoir, Douglass interweaves logical, ethical, and emotional appeal in his recountings of slave life. His writing is so moving because he experienced the injustice against blacks firsthand and lived through the traumatizing events, unlike white abolitionists. His appeal to the emotions of his audience was profoundly personal
he was African American,
he was a former slave, lived through terrible mistreatment and survived the escape to freedom. Garrison realized this effect and perhaps saw Douglass as a means to achieve the most impact with this appeal, which is why he wanted Douglass to speak less intelligently and act more like the vision that whites had of a slave. Paradoxically, this is what Douglass was fighting against -- this single-minded view held of African Americans. While Garrison's efforts to free the slaves were hugely influential, he was not directly affected and harmed by whites as Douglass was and therefore could not have the same effect.
"The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people's expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn't care if you are a white person who likes black people; it's still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don't look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation... Ignorance is another. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we're immediately born into. It's like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It's not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It's a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world..." -Scott Wood
"Richard Toler." Interview by Ruth Thompson. N.p., 10 Aug. 1997. Web. 02 Jan. 2014. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/wpa/toler1.html>.
Interview with Richard Toler
This interview reveals the lifestyle of slaves during the antebellum period. In the interview Toler says, "Ah never went to school. Learned to read and write my name after ah was free in night school, but they nevah allowed us to have a book in ouah hand, and we couldn't have no money neither." Slaves were not allowed to learn to read; their owners feared an educated slave population. Toler explains, "But ah did talk to Lincoln, and ah tol' him ah wanted to be free, and he was a fine man, 'cause he made us all free. And ah got a ole history, it's the Sanford American History, and was published in 1784. But ah don't know where it is now, ah misplaced it. It is printed in the book, something ah said, now written by hand. And it says, 'Ah am a ole slave which has suvved fo' 21 yeahs, and ah would be quite pleased if you could help us to be free. We thank you very much. Ah trust that some day ah can do you the same privilege that you are doing for me. Ah have been a slave for many years." Despite his inability to attend school, Toler learned to read and write on his own, and even shared his opinion on slavery with Lincoln. Toler describes his experience with music: "After the wah, ah bought a fiddle, and ah was a good fiddlah. Used to be a fiddlah fo' the white girls to dance. Jes' picked it up. It was a natural gif'. Ah could still play if ah had a fiddle. Ah used to play at our hoe downs, too." Music was an important part of slave gatherings as it brought slaves closer together. They would feel united through the music, and even learned necessary information about escaping to the North.
Wood, Scott. "5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani Difranco
or Plantations." Scott Woods Makes Lists. Wordpress.com, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. Dec. 2013.
"I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion." (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Chapter 2, Paragraph 9)
These stories, although written by Joel Chandler Harris, were taken from African folklore. The stories are about a cunning rabbit who outsmarts his adversaries, like brer fox and brer bear, who are much larger than brer rabbit. Similarly, slaves sought to one day overcome their adversary, the slave owner. The brer rabbit stories encouraged slaves and helped them believe that they can achieve freedom from their owners.
Even though white abolitionists fought for the antislavery movement, the two ethnic groups had completely different cultures that could not be fully understood by one another. The black abolitionists were the "backbone of the antislavery movement" because this unique sense of culture and kinship was something independent African Americans shared with one another.
Frederick Douglass "bridged the gap" between the institution of slavery and slaves' freedom because he experienced slave life, survived escaping, and lived in the "free world". He is able to be labeled "leader of the enslaved" because he
enslaved himself, unlike, obviously, any white abolitionists. "He has the audacity to say 'I speak for the slaves better than the abolitionists that speak on our behalf and don't understand our pain."
"Slave Culture." YouTube. YouTube, 13 Nov. 2009. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
"Slave Culture and Music." YouTube. YouTube, 30 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.
Music in Slave Culture
"This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph was a full compensation for whatever else might follow, even death itself. He only can understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me." (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Chapter 10, Paragraph 12)
Slaves were not allowed to possess drums, because slave owners feared that they would cause rebellions. As a result, they had to improvise and use their hands and feet to keep rhythm. Slaves were united in their hardship, and music was a way for them to praise God and share their suffering with one another.
Douglass, Frederick. "Chapter 2." Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. N. pag. Print.
Douglass, Frederick. "Chapter 10." Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. N. pag. Print.
Slaves had a unique shared experience completely separate from anything that white abolitionists could have gone through. Even though white abolitionists could sympathize with what the slaves were going through, could they truly empathize? Not only did slaves have the shared experience of growing up in a different country, but they also had the experience of being yanked from their families and being thrust into forming new family groups, made to create new communities. This was something unlike anything that the abolitionists could truly relate to. As a result of this shared experience, slaves were able to have a completely different perspective than the white abolitionists did -- they were able to bond through their suffering.
Slave Culture
Extended slave families quickly grew to be very close due to their joint suffering, but they were pulled apart even more rapidly when slave owners decided to sell some of the slaves.
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