Thank you for your interesting responses to the “Declaration of Sentiments” and Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman.” It’s taken a while for these pioneering feminists and Civil Rights activists to get their due but in the past few years, more Americans are recognizing their achievements. Just this past summer, for example, a statue was placed in NYC’s Central Park in honor of Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
This is my final post assignment for the semester, and I want to introduce three more remarkable men and women who fought to establish the rights of women and the freedom of over 4 million enslaved African Americans: Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman.
Your final post (due Tues., Dec. 15th) is to respond to ONE of these author’s works and/or lives. Your final essay (2-3 pages) could also be an extended discussion of one or more of these figures based on the readings/videos listed below.
In the 1840s, 50s, and 60s, these and other abolitionists galvanized support in the North to end slavery in the South, upon which its entire economy was based. When Abraham Lincoln became president in 1860, the Civil War would soon begin, with northern troops (the Union) fighting southern confederates. The war ended in 1865, a month before Lincoln was assassinated (April 15, 1865). The Civil War cost over 650,000 lives but succeeded in abolishing slavery forever.
Key to insuring this freedom were poet Walt Whitman, former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglas, and Harriet Tubman, a key figure in the underground railroad, which helped thousands of slaves escape from the south prior to 1865.
Walt Whitman: Brooklyn born Walt Whitman was an important poet, America’s most famous in fact, who celebrated the freedom of each and every American in his celebrated poem “Song of Myself” (1855), later collected in Leaves of Grass. In addition to his theme of individual freedom and equality across race, class, gender (and even sexuality), Whitman also celebrated Nature, spirituality, and the simple joy of human existence.
Here is brief biography of his life as well as the opening two stanzas from his famed poem “Song of Myself.”
Frederick Douglass: One of the most famous abolitionists of all was the former slave Frederick Douglass, who wrote a widely read autobiography of his life and experiences. Here is a brief biography and a video of an actor reading his essay (also review text version): “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” (1852).
In addition to watching the above short videos, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND watching the recent film Harriet based on Harriet Tubman. It’s an enormously powerful and moving film and will provide a poignant end point to this class, which has focused so much on the long battle for equal rights for all. [It’s on Amazon Prime — please watch if you can].