What stereotypes do these documents promote about African-Americans?

In the 1820s, 1830, and 1840s, the Second Great Awakening helped to inspire a reformist impulse across the nation. As History in the Making points out, one of those movements centered on an effort to abolish slavery in the United States; of course, the desire to eliminate slavery did not go unchallenged. In this activity, you will examine the views of antislavery (abolitionist) and proslavery writers in the antebellum years. This essay will help you better understand a controversy that permeated American life in the years leading up to the Civil War. (Meets Course Learning Objectives: 1, 8, 15, and 16)

Primary Sources

Read the following pro- and anti-slavery documents


Part 1: Essay

Focus Questions:

  1. What stereotypes do these documents promote about African-Americans?
  2. How do these men justify slavery? Or what points do they make about the need to abolish slavery? Should the emancipated slaves remain “on-soil,” that is, in the United States?
  3. How do these men envision civilized society and slavery’s place in it? What remarks do the abolitionists make about the conditions under which the slaves worked and lived? The pro-slavery writers?
  4. What are your impressions about the attitudes these men had about slavery, whether they were slavery proponents or abolitionists?
  5. In what ways are the arguments of these men reflective of racial prejudice?
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