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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

7. Slavery and

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Lorenzo
- Lydia Maria
- William & Ellen Craft
- Frederick
- Briton Hammon
- Helen Hunt
- Harriet Jacobs
- Abraham Lincoln
- Sorrow Songs
- Harriet Beecher
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities


The information for each author includes biographical and contextual materials and activities.

Lorenzo Asisara (b. 1819)
While the institution of slavery is generally associated with African Americans and with the antebellum South, it was in fact present in other regions and at other times in American history. Lorenzo Asisara's story is an example of the enslavement of Native Americans in the American Southwest. Asisara was born into the Costanoan Indian community... Go

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880)
Lydia Maria Child (born Lydia Francis) was raised outside of Boston in a community she described as made up of "hard-working people who had small opportunity for culture." Her parents ran a bakery while raising six children, leaving them little time for intellectual pursuits. Still, Child, encouraged by her Harvard-educated older brother, developed an early interest in... Go

William and Ellen Craft (c. 1826-1897)
William and Ellen Craft's daring escape from slavery in 1848 made them famous throughout antebellum America, heroes in the eyes of abolitionists and criminals in the eyes of slavery supporters. The unusual circumstances of their flight to freedom were a major factor in their celebrity. Ellen, so light-skinned as to be... Go

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Frederick Douglass was one of the most influential African American thinkers of his day, in spite of his inauspicious beginnings. He was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland, where he was called Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. Douglass always suspected that his father was his mother's white owner, Captain Aaron Anthony. He spent his early childhood... Go

Briton Hammon (fl. 1760)
Briton Hammon's "Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man," published in Boston in 1760, is generally recognized as the earliest published autobiography by an African American. Composed in the tradition of the popular Indian captivity genre, Hammon's narrative tells an exciting tale of travel... Go

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
A committed activist for Native American rights, Helen Hunt Jackson provides an important context for understanding Indian slavery and exploitation in the California region. Born Helen Maria Fiske to strict, Calvinist parents and orphaned in her teens, Jackson was raised and educated in female boarding schools in Massachusetts and New York. In 1852... Go

Harriet Jacobs (c. 1813-1897)
Born into slavery in North Carolina, Harriet Ann Jacobs was raised both by her free black grandmother and by a white mistress who taught her to read. Upon her mistress's death, Jacobs was willed to Mary Matilda Norcom and sent to live in her household. Mary's father, the prominent physician Dr. James Norcom, soon began making unwelcome... Go

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Born to impoverished parents in backwoods Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln rose to become the sixteenth president of the United States. His remarkable story of success, his achievements in guiding the country through the Civil War, and his tragic death have afforded him iconic stature within the annals of American history and made him a hero to many. Lincoln had... Go

Sorrow Songs
Drawing on both African musical styles and western European sources, black slaves in the antebellum South created a rich musical tradition of Sorrow Songs, or spirituals. These songs fulfilled a variety of functions within slave culture: workers timed their labor to the tempo of their music, preserved and articulated communal values, and transcended the restrictions of... Go

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into a large New England religious family. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a prominent Evangelical Calvinist minister, and her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, followed in their father's footsteps to become one of the best-known preachers in the country. Stowe's oldest sister, Catharine Beecher, ran a succession of girls' schools... Go

Suggested Author Pairings Go

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