Abolition

Five Books to Celebrate and Remember the Abolition

Everything has history, but sometimes, history is more deeply rooted than we can imagine. Today marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition and we can’t help but remember all the powerful authors that brought slavery into the light for us to truly see.

 

So many legendary authors have created works that stood the tests of time. They gave us literature and the truth all in one. Here are four works to honor this day and every day of freedom:

 

1.Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
 
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One of the first of the slave narratives, Jacobs’s work was a passionate appeal to white women living in the Northern United States to enlighten themselves as to the evils of slavery. Jacobs describes her life from a young age living as a slave in North Carolina. Her formative years are relatively idyllic and it is not until her mother dies and her mistress bequeaths her to a relative that she begins to discover the true horror of her position. What follows is a harrowing narrative of sexual abuse and fight for survival. While the work was almost immediately overshadowed by the start of the American Civil War it has since found its place as one of the most important of all the slave narratives distinguishing itself as one of the first from the female perspective.

 

 
 
 

 

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Considered as one of the most famous of all the slave narratives ever written, the story recounts Douglass’s life from early childhood growing up in Maryland as a slave to his eventual escape to the North. Douglass tells of his life with various owners depicting the cruelty that he himself endured and was witness to. Douglass begins to learn to read and write when his master’s wife, Mrs. Sophia Auld, begins teaching him the alphabet and some small words. His instruction quickly comes to an end though when Mr. Auld disapproves. Douglass, however, realizing the importance of literacy, takes it upon himself to learn to read and write. This decision would serve him well as he would eventually use it to document the civil injustices of slavery in 19th century America and to craft his impassioned oratories against it.
 
 
 
 

 

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Northup, who was a free African American living in Saratoga, New York, had no idea what was in store for him when he was approached by two circus promoters with an offer of a brief high paying job as a musician with their traveling circus. A skilled violinist, Solomon gladly accepted the offer and traveled with the two men to Washington, D.C. When he awoke one morning drugged and bound in a cell for slaves he discovered the men’s true intentions of selling him into slavery. What followed was twelve years of bondage during which Northup experienced the gamut of both kindness and cruelty afforded to slaves in the Southern United States just prior to the American Civil War.

 

 
4. The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

 

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Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.
 
 
 
 
5. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

 

 

 

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