Osborne P. Anderson: A Voice from Harper’s Ferry

(1861)

Context

Despite the fact that he was born free in the northern United States, Osborne Anderson, an African American, lived in a world in which he was considered a nonperson. The movement to abolish slavery was very much alive, but it had primarily succeeded in creating a hostile relationship between northern and southern states. The Compromise of 1850, which included the new Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, decreeing that those who helped fugitive slaves would be prosecuted and ordering northerners to aid in the capture and return of fugitive slaves to their masters, only served to deepen that hostile relationship. Subsequently, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, fanned the flames of northern hatred for slavery and encouraged northerners to flout the Fugitive Slave Act by aiding fugitive slaves. While Stowe was attempting to persuade southerners to eschew slavery based on an appeal to emotion and religious beliefs, she succeeded only...

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John Brown (Library of Congress)

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