Radical Abolitionism through Self revelation in American Literature

Houria Mihoubi


The major purpose of the article is to shed light on the contribution of literature to the American  abolitionist movement .The article shall be an attempt to reveal the major roots of black radicalism as well as the background of their ideological project and radical movement in the American society .In fact, the Americans and since the Revolution, have adopted a set of principles like the necessity of applying justice, freedom, and equality that became later the major ideals of the American society and that made the Americans feel themselves exceptional in founding the true democratic society in which every individual can enjoy freedom, equality ,and justice .The abolitionist movement came out to apply the theory of the “self evident truths” on the African American people. Black writers saw in literature an appropriate tool to foster and argue for radical abolitionism. Self revelation was a window through which the reading public could feel the plight of the African Americans in the USA society.

Texte intégral :



- Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence” p.1.

- Ibid.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia(London, John Stockdale, Opposite Burlington-House, 1787), 137.

- Ibid.

- Ibid, 143.,


- To summarize an extremely complex story, the scandal is that Thomas Jefferson had a relationship with one of his slaves named Sally Hemings, who was ¼ African American, and fathered six children with her. One of these children died at the age of two and there is a lack of information on the third oldest child, but the other four were freed in some fashion by Jefferson. William Beverly, the second oldest child, ran away from Monticello in 1822, and unlike what most owners would do, Jefferson did not pursue him. Harriet, the fourth oldest child, left Monticello in 1822 as well, “with the aid of Jefferson”. The last two, Madison and Eston, were freed in Jefferson’s will in 1826.

But, evidence seems to suggest that this was an isolated incident. Take the purposed reason Jefferson freed these slaves. It is believed by some that “Jefferson promised her that he would free all of her children when they reached the age of twenty one if she would agree to return to the United States with him [from France in 1789]”. This seems to suggest that Jefferson only released the children because of some agreement made with the woman considered to be his lover after the death of Martha. The other major evidence is one of the main arguments against the possibility that this scandal is true, that Jefferson was a devout and loving father to his children with Martha.

- “New Organization,” Herald of Freedom, rept., Liberator, 8 May 1840.

- See Julie Roy Jeffrey, Abolitionists Remember: Antislavery Autobiographies and the Unfinished Work of Emancipation(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

- Gilbert Hobbs Barnes, The Antislavery Impulse, 1830-1844 (New York: D. Appleton- Century, 1933); Dwight Lowell Dumond, Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961). See also Betty L. Fladeland, “Revisionists vs. Abolitionists: The Historiographical Cold War of the 1930s and 1940s,” Journal of the Early Republic6 (1986), 1-21; Merton Dillon, “Gilbert H. Barnes and Dwight L. Dumond: An Appraisal,” Reviews in American History XXI (1993): 539-52.

- See Aileen S. Kraditor, Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and His Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850 (1967; Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1989), 3-38; James Brewer Stewart,

Holy Warriors: the Abolitionists and American Slavery(New York: Hill and Wang, 1976); McPherson, Struggle for Equality; James Brewer Stewart, “The Aims and Impact of Garrisonian Abolitionism, 1840-1860,” Civil War History15 (1969), 197-209; James Brewer Stewart, “Peaceful Hopes and Violent Experiences: The Evolution of Reforming and Radical Abolitionism, 1831- 1837,” Civil War History17 (1971), 293-309; Staughton Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism(New York: Pantheon, 1968).

- Gilbert Barnes, Anti-Slavery Impulse. See also Anne C. Loveland, "Evangelicism and Immediate Emancipation."

- Douglass,1978, pp. 77-78.

- ibid

- Douglass,1978

- Wright, 1993, p.75

- Ibid.


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