Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"The Abolitionists" Part II: a former slave publishes his own life

Part II of the PBS American Experience film “The Abolitionists”  (Jan. 9) focused particularly on the biography of Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery in southern Maryland.

He worked in odd jobs, supporting his wife and family while evading bounty hunters, and settled in Massachusetts.  Eventually he teamed up with William Lloyd Garrison and, at considerable risk, became a spokesperson for abolition.

He also authored and somehow had published (self-published?) a book “A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” in which he named his former owner, which eventually added to the jeopardy he was in, when the owner found out.  He did not keep a low profile.

The film also described the politics of the Great Compromise, over the entry of new states based on territory acquired during the Mexican war.  One result was that it was illegal to even promote abolition, and even in northern states, white men could be “conscripted” as bounty hunters.

In fact, some people claim that the Second Amendment was based in part on the practice in the south of “drafting” militia of young men as bounty hunters. 

The film also told the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. 

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