Protest on Behalf of a Fugitive Slave
Citizens of Boston! A Free Citizen of Massachusetts—Free by Massachusetts
Laws until His Liberty is Declared to be Forfeited by a Massachusetts
Jury, is Now Imprisoned . . . Boston: s.n., ca. 1855.
Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection
America, or, The Emancipation of Slaves. Jigsaw Puzzle (ca. 1860s).
Gift of Rita Guerlac
Spreading the Word
Fierce words and vivid images were among the tools that radical “immediatist”
abolitionists used to further their cause. Instead of gently pleading
their case, they employed sensational language to shock people into action
against slavery. On posters for abolitionist rallies and meetings, the
fervor of the language is matched only by its physical, typographical
boldness and size. This poster's appeal to the “Citizens of Boston”
and “Sons of Otis, and Hancock” to “see that Massachusetts
Laws are not outraged with your consent,” conjures up the signers
and the principles of the Declaration of Independence to stir the reader
to act in favor of the cause.
Realizing that sometimes words were inadequate, abolitionists
also spoke through pictures. Images used to further anti-slavery agendas
idealized and mythologized slaves, thus elevating the abolitionist cause.
The jigsaw puzzle “America” offers a mythologized version
of liberation by representing American emancipation as a white female,
reminiscent of Nike, goddess of victory. Crowned by a halo of stars, carrying
broken shackles in her right hand and ivy in her left, the woman stands
above slaves, kneeling, praying, and praising her. The responsibility
of salvation, the image implies, rests in white Americans’ hands.
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