Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Abolitionists

The Abolitionists
A new three-part series begins on PBS this evening called The Abolitionists. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/abolitionists/

This was the movement in the United States prior to the Civil War which worked toward the end of slavery, and also helped smuggle escaped and sometimes freed slaves out of the South, either to free states or Canada. I plan to watch, at least tonight.

The Quakers or Society of Friends was the Christian denomination passionately involved in this effort. Members often took huge personal risks to protect slaves. James Michener touches on this in his sprawling historical novel, Chesapeake. There are also two recently published novels which focus on Quakers, one by a Canadian author and the other by an American.

Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl With the Pearl Earring offers us The Last Runaway. Linda Spalding has written the praised The Purchase:

 In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, a young Quaker father and widower, leaves his home in Pennsylvania to establish a new life. He sets out with two horses, a wagonful of belongings, his five children, a 15-year-old orphan wife, and a few land warrants for his future homestead. When Daniel suddenly trades a horse for a young slave, Onesimus, it sets in motion a struggle in his conscience that will taint his life forever, and sets in motion a chain of events that lead to two murders and the family’s strange relationship with a runaway slave named Bett.

The twist in Spalding's novel is that a Quaker might purchase a slave despite his conscience. The name for the slave, Onesimus, is actually the name of the runaway slave in the tiny New Testament book Philemon. http://www.devotions.net/bible/57philemon.htm

I received The Purchase for Christmas, and I have The Last Runaway on order. Are you aware of the Abolitionist movement? Curious?

Do you believe in sea monsters? http://groundlingearthyheavenly.blogspot.ca/2013/01/leviathan.html


IanD said...

Haven't heard of either novel but book reviews and new fiction is but one of the many things I lean on you for, David!

That time period in and of itself is so interesting. It's the issue that literally tore a nation apart and the arguments around the perceived im/morality of slavery at the time are just fascinating.

Sounds like I'll tune in!

willowjakmom said...

I'll be setting the pvr for this one (thanks for passing it on). I'm also pretty interested to read The Purchase, as I am on a Canadian writers kick at the moment. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts AFTER the show airs.