Tuesday, January 08, 2013
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