Posts Tagged ‘Hist 299’

Literature Review

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I have not been able to p0st for a while, but below I have included my literature review.  It was difficult to figure out my main thesis regarding the literature, but the following is what I concluded with:

“Reflections on the writings of Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass”

Carol Killian
Literature Review
Written, October 18, 2010

Throughout the late 1700s and into the 1800s, abolitionists began to speak out against slavery in the United States.  Among them were two notable authors who were African Americans and who had been enslaved themselves.  Historians have written about slavery and the abolitionist movement, basing their information on the works of Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano.  Both Equiano and Douglass’ works were published during two different centuries which altered their approaches to the abolition movement.  Likewise, writers who came afterwards have discussed these two key leaders in the context of the educational status of blacks, Equiano and Douglass’ approaches to speaking out against slavery and their impact on the changing times throughout the abolition movement.

In Equiano’s Travels written by Olaudah Equiano, the editor, Paul Edwards explains in the introduction that Equiano’s literature made African literature accessible.[1] Following in Equiano’s footsteps, Douglass declared himself as “America’s black Jeremiah” and wrote the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which was published in 1845.[2] Both of these African American writers have given historians firsthand access to what slavery was like.  Long after the emancipation of slaves, writers of today continue to use these men’s lives in order to demonstrate the changing approaches to slavery over time.  In an article by Nicole Smith, it is evident that Equiano and Douglass are similar yet different.[3] The greatest difference is their views on “the keys to freedom.”[4] For Douglass, it is education and literacy that earn a slave their freedom but for Equiano, although he believes education is vital, it is also dangerous for slaves to be educated in a “society that wishes to keep slaves ignorant.”[5] Similar to one another, Douglass and Equiano both earn support from many people who want to help them become educated and then use “the power of words and literacy” to speak out against the absurdities of slavery.[6] Today, literature that has been written about Equiano is most notable for arguing in support of his work even though it may not be a complete firsthand account.  Frederick Douglass’ main works have been analyzed by numerous historians and each look at the numerous ways he pushed for the abolishment of slavery in the United States.

In the 1700s, slavery was gaining a foothold in the British colonies and throughout Europe.  For Equiano, his work brought about questions such as, “why was it that…almost every European country supported the capture, purchase and enslavement of Africans without compassion?”[7] While he played a major role in the abolitionist movement in the American colonies, he also focused on the British Abolitionist Movement.  In his fight, Equiano made appeals to the Queen of England in 1788, and traveled mainly around England promoting his story.  Equiano’s Travels is written in a play by play format, and in this way, Equiano pleads for the lives of those that are like himself and have been placed in unwanted situations of life.

Writers such as, Marcus Rediker, have used eye witness accounts of past slaves in order to stress the traumas of slavery.  In his book, The Slave Ship (2007), Rediker uses Equiano’s narrative in order to emphasize how slaves were shipped to and from Africa.  Rediker uses Equiano’s story to emphasize that Equiano “spoke for millions.”[8] According to Rediker, Equiano’s story reveals much about the slave trade in general especially because he was “the first person to write extensively about the slave trade from the perspective of the enslaved.”[9] From The Slave Ship, it is evident that Rediker tries to emphasize the fact that Equiano was changed by his experience of being shipped from Africa.  As a result, he learned that “Multitude is strength.”[10] Rediker’s excerpt on Equiano’s narrative demonstrates the fact that Equiano spoke out against the slave trade by presenting his own testimony.

Another author who has written regarding Equiano is Emily Donaldson Field.  In, “Expecting Himself,” she explains that in “1999, Vincent Carretta changed the trajectory of Equiano scholarship with his evidence that Equiano may have been born not in West Africa but in the Carolinas.”[11] Field goes on in her essay to state that if this is the case, Equiano may have used pictures from other African Americans’ memories to depict “Igbo country.”[12] Therefore, the accuracy of The Interesting Narrative may be in question.  The fact that Equiano may not have experienced all that he said he had is of little importance regarding how his work opened the door for future abolitionist writers.  Field’s article is significant in revealing to the reader that Equiano uses an “Anglo identity” in his writings.[13] He stresses the importance of changing from an “African pagan” to a “British Christian.”[14] From Fields it is clear that unlike Douglass, Equiano’s writings can be questioned regarding their accuracy of the firsthand experiences he claims, but regardless, Equiano still influenced the rights of African Americans.

There are many writings about Douglass.  In Peter C. Myers’ book, Frederick Douglass, Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, he reflects on the past decade during which Douglass has been given numerous labels as an abolitionist leader.  Myers discusses the fact that some critics have found Douglass as “urging blacks to become ‘like whites.’”[15] While there are faults that can be found in Douglass’ work, Myers goes states that “Douglass was right” in his pursuit of fighting for natural rights.[16] Myers takes Douglass’ works and his life and looks deeply at Douglass’ exposure of slavery’s ‘true philosophy.’[17] Throughout the 1800s, other African American writers such as David Walker[18] and William Lloyd Garrison[19] rose to action.  Myers makes many points that argue the fact that Frederick Douglass came at the perfect time in history.  “By Douglass’ day, the wholehearted affirmation of slavery’s absolute superiority” had become grounded in southern thought.[20] Unlike Equiano, Douglass had to fight against something that had been established for centuries.

In The Black Hearts of Men (2002), John Stauffer discusses the “Radical Political Abolitionists.”[21] The Radical Political Abolitionists were Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass, James McCune Smith and John Brown, and they “overcame existing social barriers.”[22] The Black Hearts of Men clearly explains that for Frederick Douglass, the fight to end slavery was a pressing matter in the world around him.  Douglass worked along with other leading abolitionists such as Abraham Lincoln in order to gain recognition.[23] In Wu jin-Ping’s, Frederick Douglass and the Black Liberation Movement (2000), he describes the struggles and hardships that liberating the slaves took Douglass through.  Unlike Equiano, Douglass was fighting for the industry of slavery to be ended in the United States.  The slave trade had already ended in England when Douglass began to campaign.

Literature regarding Equiano and Douglass can be looked at topically.  Writings about Equiano focus largely on his monumental story which was the first major work published by a black man.  It is clear in the writings about him that Equiano used his dramatic life experiences to demonstrate the hardships of slavery.  According to Peter Myers, Frederick Douglass finished up what Equiano helped begin.  Writings on Frederick Douglass make reference to other abolitionists of his time while writings on Equiano have no other abolitionists to relate it with.  Both of these men changed the fight for equality for every individual.


Blassingame, John.  Frederick Douglass. National Park Service, 1976.

Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Writtenby Himself. Edited by David W. Blight.  St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

Equiano, Olaudah.  Equiano’s Travels, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African. Edited by Paul Edwards.  Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1967.

Field, Emily, “‘Excepting Himself’: Olaudah Equiano, Native Americans, and the Civilizing Mission,” MELUS 34, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 15-38. (accessed September 19, 2010).

Jin-Ping, Wu.  Frederick Douglass and the Black Liberation Movement. New York:  Garland Publishing, 2000.

Myers, Peter C.  Frederick Douglass, Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism. Lawrence, Kansas:  University Press of Kansas, 2008.

Rediker, Marcus.  The Slave Ship. London, England:  Penguin Group, 2007.

Ruchames, Louis.  The Abolitionists, A Collection of Their Writings. New York:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1963.

Smith, Nicole.  “Comparison of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Up From Slavery, and The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano.”  Article Myriad [cited September 9, 2010].  <>.

Stauffer, John.  The Black Hearts of Men. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University

[1] Olaudah Equiano, Equiano’s Travels, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, ed. Paul Edwards (Long Grove, Illinois:  Waveland Press, 1967), viii.

[2] Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, ed. David W. Blight (St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 11.

[3] Nicole Smith, “Comparison of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Up From Slavery, and The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano,” Article Myriad, (accessed September 9, 2010).

[4] Nicole Smith, “Comparison of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Up From Slavery, and The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano,” Article Myriad, (accessed September 9, 2010).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Olaudah Equiano, Equiano’s Travels, ed. Paul Edwards, ix.

[8] Marcus Rediker,  The Slave Ship, (London, England:  Penguin Group, 2007) 109.

[9] Ibid, 109.

[10] Ibid, 131.

[11] Emily Field, “‘Excepting Himself’: Olaudah Equiano, Native Americans, and the Civilizing Mission,” MELUS 34, no. 4, 15-38, (accessed September 19, 2010).

[12] Ibid, 16

[13] Ibid, 17

[14] Ibid, 17

[15] Peter C. Myers, Frederick Douglass, Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, (Lawrence, Kansas:  University Press of Kansas, 2008), 11.

[16] Ibid, 21.

[17] Ibid, 22.

[18] David Walker published Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World in 1829.

[19] Garrison launched the Liberator, in 1831.

[20] Peter C. Myers, Frederick Douglass, 23.

[21] John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), 2.

[22] John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), 2.

[23] Wu Jin-Ping, Frederick Douglass and the Black Liberation Movement, (New York:  Garland Publishing, 2000), 3.

Ridiculous Historical Thesis:

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

This is a link to a document about the Camelots du roi in France.  it’s interesting…

Proposal Finale

Monday, September 20th, 2010

After making necessary changes, here’s my final paper proposal:

Throughout the late 1700s and into the 1800s, abolitionists began to speak out against slavery in the United States. Among them were a number of African Americans who had been enslaved themselves. In looking at the writings of Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano, comparisons can be made between their differing approaches to abolition. They both came from different backgrounds and took action during two different time periods. Equiano’s personal narrative was published in 1789 and Douglass’ in 1845; thus, there were 56 years in between these two major works. Both were adamant speakers and they traveled to numerous places. They were inspired by different vision and experiences.

There are three main questions that can be asked about these two major figures in abolitionist history. First, how are Douglass and Equiano different in their approaches to slavery and why? Secondly, do their points and opinions overlap? Thirdly, how does their impact on slavery differ? Initially, these questions could be answered by analyzing and comparing their specific writings. It is also important to understand how the differing time periods affected both of their ideas. For example, in the late 1700s to early 1800s when Equiano was speaking out and writing, what did slavery look like then? This is where secondary sources will come into use in looking at the history of the abolitionist movement in America. One of the biggest differences in these two time periods is that Douglass’ campaign went on much closer to the rise of the Civil War, and because of that he got to see the issue of slavery come to a head. Equiano on the other died in 1797, and was not able to see many results from his efforts.

According to his autobiography, Olaudah Equiano was born in what is now Nigeria and brought to America to become a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy. In 1789, Equiano’s narrative was published. There have been some disputes as to whether or not Equiano’s narrative is accurate. Even if all of his accounts are not about his own story, he may have taken bits and pieces from other people’s experiences. As a primary source, Equiano’s work gives the reader a picture of how life was for a slave brought over from Africa. His story also gives one a picture of how a slave might have earned his or her freedom. There are less secondary sources on Equiano than there are on Douglass, but the majority of the sources about Equiano are websites or articles online. One online journal article by Emily Field states that Equiano’s efforts through speeches and writings not only went against African American slavery, but they impacted the fight for Native American civility as well.

There are many primary and secondary sources on Frederick Douglass. His writings include his own personal narrative and further correspondences with fellow abolitionists. Not only are there numerous sources written by Douglass himself, there are also many reflections written about him. In, Frederick Douglass, by John Blassingame, he discusses how Douglass’ works and speeches were received in society during the 1800s. Learning how Douglass was understood by the world around him is key in how he can be compared with Equiano. Douglass was more widely known in the United States during his fight for abolition than Equiano. The most evident reason for this was that from the mid 1800s on, slavery became more of a divisive issue than ever before.

In the book, The Black Hearts of Men, John Stauffer discusses the lives and impact of numerous abolitionists. This source proves useful when comparing Equiano’s and Douglass’ years of involvement. In looking at other abolitionist figures and their movement throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a deeper understanding can be gained regarding Douglass and Equiano. Another secondary source that discusses abolitionists is an online essay, by Nicole Smith, which discusses how Douglass and Equiano had different approaches to facing antislavery. For example, for Douglass it is clear that education and literacy were key in his gain of freedom and for Equiano, education played a leading role as well, but he eventually bought his freedom.

The primary goal of this paper is to present the fact that the pursuit of abolitionists changed over time. As years passed, goals were gained and free African Americans began to speak out. Two major figures were Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano. Both of these men were some of the only African American abolitionists whose writings were published. Equiano’s narrative was different than those that had gone before because he not only wrote it himself, but he published it himself and traveled around the world promoting his work. Equiano set the stage for Douglass’ campaign 56 years later. Using information regarding the abolitionist movement and comparing these men’s lives, a picture of how the changing times impacted slavery can be gained.

“A Son of Africa.” California Newsreel. Blassingame, John. 1976. Frederick Douglass. National Park Service.

Carey, Brycchan. “British Abolitionists.” 5 June 2010. [cited September 11, 2010]. .

Carey, Brycchan. “Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African.” 20 April 2010. .

Costanzo, Angelo. Surprizing Narrative: Olaudah Equiano and the Beginnings of Black Autobiography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Douglass, Frederick. 1999. Frederick Douglass, Selected Speeches and Writings. Edited by Philip S. Foner. Chicago, Illinois: Lawrence Hill Books.

Douglass, Frederick. 1993. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. Edited by David W. Blight. St. Martin’s Press.

Douglass, Frederick. 2009. The Frederick Douglass Papers. Edited by John R. McKivigan. Vol. 1: 1842-1852. Yale University Press. Equiano, Olaudah. 1967.

Equiano’s Travels, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African. Edited by Paul Edwards. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press.

Field, Emily, “‘Excepting Himself’: Olaudah Equiano, Native Americans, and the Civilizing Mission,” MELUS 34, no. 4 (Winter 2009), EBSCOhost, (accessed September 19, 2010).

“Frederick Douglass 1818-1895.” Judgment Day. PBS Online. .
McNamara, Robert. “Classic Slave Narratives, Time Honored Works of Slave Autobiography.” About.Com. .

“Olaudah Equiano, the life of.” The Equiano Foundation. .

“Olaudah Equiano.” This Far by Faith, PBS Online. .

Ruchames, Louis. 1963. The Abolitionists, A Collection of Their Writings. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Smith, Nicole. “Comparison of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Up From Slavery, and The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano.” Article Myriad [cited September 9, 2010]. .

Smith, Nicole. The Incompatibility of Education and Slavery in “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An

American Slave” Article Myriad [cited September 9, 2010]. .

Stauffer, John. 2002. The Black Hearts of Men. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Wendell, Carver. “Voice in the Slave Narratives of Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Solomon Northrup.” Mellen Press. .

Book Review and Review Article I found

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I was able to find a really good Book review on the “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass” using EBSCOhost. Here is the link: It was written by Ann Burns

The Review Article I found was about race and identity in Olaudah Equiano’s narrative. Here is the link:

Searching on EBSCO was really encouraging for me because I was able to find a lot about my topic in journal form and for the research proposal it was harder to find them.


Friday, September 10th, 2010

So I did some exploring and discovered a really fun/cool website that let’s you do tutorials on History!  It’s just fun.  Here’s the link:

Also, in looking at a good historical website I found one that had many other links and sources to choose from.  In my opinion it was a bad history site because it was not clear as to what could be found.  You could click one link and it would lead you to 360 other articles or websites.  I feel like a good historical website should have a useful search system and not take you into 100 directions.

After searching for a while I was able to find a good website.  I thought it was good because it was clear, provided histories from A-Z, and included Timelines.  Each of the history pages (well 3 of the ones I looked at), included images and a detailed chronological history of numerous topics.

William J. Winsor

Friday, September 10th, 2010

After looking at what others have posted and then searching for William J. Winsor on the web myself, I expected to find little. My expectations were correct. There was only a repetition of his autobiography that we read or snip-its of it at least.  I also found links to our blog from posts that we have made!  I wonder why there is so little about him…

Choosing a Topic Worksheet

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Choosing a topic for any paper is a process. Completing each of the following steps (in any order), should help you choose a topic that is appropriate for the assignment.

A. Briefly describe the library research that you did towards choosing a topic. Include at least two reference books that you used and three library card catalog subject headings that you found useful.

For my topic I have found two great books to use as primary sources. I plan on comparing the opinions of David Walker and Olaudah Equiano. I also may drop Walker and compare Equiano with Frederick Douglass because they were both African American abolitionists. But I’m still playing with that idea. David Walker’s is an appeal to the “colored citizens of the world” regarding their circumstances and it was written in the 1800s. Then I also plan to use Equiano’s autobiography that he wrote in 1789. Three library card catalog subject headings that I found useful were: under basic search I found a lot simply under their first and last names, under subject headings I found “Abolitionists – Correspondence” and “Abolitionists – America.”

B. Briefly describe the internet research that you did. What words did you google successfully? Name at least one useful website. Do not include web based library card catalogs in this section.

For internet research I was able to find a good deal on both Equiano and Walker by typing their names into google. I also tried typing both their names in and some interesting things came up. One of the links discussed how Equiano identified with black slaves before David Walker. One useful website was: And it really lays out what Walker talks about and what his goal and impact was. This was another great website/article I found online: This article compares different views of African American abolitionists such as Equiano and Frederick Douglass.

C. You should talk to at least one member of this history department about your topic, or at least an expert in your field. Name that expert and briefly describe his/her comments.

I met with Dr. Ferrell. She gave me some key insights as to how these two abolitionists can be compared and contrasted. Equiano introduced his writings before Walker and while they both stand against slavery, they have different approaches to doing it.

D. You must have a primary source for this paper. Provide any pertinent information on that primary source including website and/or call number

See A. Call numbers are: E446. W177 2000

E. Are enough secondary sources available on this topic? Tell me a bit about what you found.

Secondary sources are abundant as far as finding things about either one of these abolitionists. There is a lot that is on both Walker and Equiano individually, and I found a book about abolitionists of the North, but I’m still looking for more.

My Discussion with a UMW Historian

Monday, September 6th, 2010

It took me a while to get this up, but I set up a meeting with Dr. Ferrell. At first for my paper I was interested in doing something regarding the Enlightenment era, but after going to a couple of my history of the American South classes, I’ve taken an interest in early slavery. When I went to talk with Dr. Ferrell, I was thinking about basing my paper on the changing status of blacks in the early colonial years. I wanted to use the life of Anthony Johnson as an example. Before I went to talk with her however, I realized that there is little to no information that can be found on Anthony Johnson. Johnson was a black who earned over 250 acres for himself, but little is known as to how he accomplished this or how he was viewed in society because his life was lived 400 years ago and little records were kept of him. Meeting with Dr. Ferrell made me see that my potential topic was not concentrated as much as it should be, and it could go in many directions. She gave me the suggestion of comparing the views of slavery from one decade to the next. I really liked her ideas. Now what I’m looking into are some leading abolitionists, Olaudah Equiano and David Walker, and their different thoughts and approaches to the issue of slavery. This subject will still be about slavery, which I’m interested in, but it will give me more of a focused subject.

Primary Source Analysis

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

This source is a court document regarding the legal status of Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary. Anthony Johnson was an African who entered Virginia in 1621. He would soon be more successful than fellow white colonists. Johnson was able to eventually develop a 250 acre estate with his wife Mary. His life gives a picture of how differently blacks were treated at the start of colonization. They were not treated with complete respect or freedom but compared to how slaves were treated, Anthony Johnson rose above the status quo. As far as this document is concerned, Johnson had passed away five years before this court announcement took place. In 1670, a jury in Virginia decided that because Anthony was a “Negro,” his family were therefore “Aliens” and the land he owned should be given to the crown. The document was written by someone who was at hand when the court case took place, so little is known about the author. I plan to use this source in my paper as I discuss how the social status of black’s gradually changed in the colonial days. Discussing Johnson’s specific story will give me something to base my argument off of. This recorded court case proves that Anthony Johnson and his family really existed. The problems I see in using this source are that it is hardly legible and that I do not know much about the author. If it were easier to read it may be more useful in that I would be able to decipher what it says. What I plan on doing is using it and doing more research on the Johnson’s story.

Public Broadcasting Station.  “Africans in America.”  1670.  [cited September 4, 2010].  <>

Court Document regarding Anthony Johnson

Court Document regarding Anthony Johnson

Col. Rhea’s Documents

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

First of all, what is the point of a primary source? In my opinion it is basically a firsthand account that gives us as researches an inside view into a specific point in time. That being said, I found it amazing while reading about the documents we have access to about Col. Rhea. By looking at the primary sources that were provided, I learned a lot about one person alone. In section III, it describes what the documents contain, and I found it intriguing to see how much information can be gained from the sources at hand. From his passport it can be gathered that Rhea traveled to many places; and from the letter (document 8) from the American Unofficial Delegation it can be gathered that he played a role in guiding and negotiating peace. Kalustian even states that he hopes that this collection of articles and sources will “rescue Colonel James Cooper from the obscurity of neglected history,” and I feel that it does give us a clear picture of the life of Colonel Rhea that we could not gain without primary sources.