Focus Statement – Second Attempt
Here we go again:
Why were different shades of color used in American abolitionists publications to describe slaves? I argue depictions and descriptions of “whiteness” were used in conjunction with family images, religious rhetoric, and miscegenation as a strategy to illicit emotional responses in the readers of antislavery publications from 1830 – 1865. I will be using several abolitionist newspapers, slave narratives, and images to track the use of color as a tactic in the antislavery movement and to show the importance of “whiteness” in the fight against slavery.
By examining the various antislavery publications I hope to show some of the earliest examples of whiteness in antislavery publications and show this was a tactic continually adopted by abolitionists. When paired with other tactics, color could enable these publications to potentially reach a much wider audience and connect on an emotional level with their readers. “Whiteness” as a tactic has been somewhat overlooked by abolitionist historians and I hope to add to the discussion of female mobilization within the antislavery movement by examining color and its meanings to those sympathetic to abolitionists.
Nice statement, David. I will be interested to see, as you move forward, how you begin to define “emotional responses.” And how you will show intent on the part of the writers to illicit response. Seems it will probably be important to be alert to how easy it’s going to be to attribute intent without “proving” its existence. Parsing the meanings of whiteness for Americans likely to be attracted to abolitionism — laying out that historiography might be useful. Is the warrant in this argument something like “social movements use emotional appeals (as well as or in contrast to reason) to attract supporters?”
I think that is the the value of my argument and research! I am still not sure about whether or not it is in contrast or in addition to reason, but I am inclined to think it has to be more of the later. As always thanks for putting something so clearly and finding a way to express something I was thinking but having trouble saying in my own words!