American Slavery
A Historical Exploration of Literature
by Robert Felgar
November 2014, 247pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-647-0
$70, £54, 61€, A96
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-648-7
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Did the Civil War have to be fought in order for slavery to be abolished?

Utilizing key selections from American literature, this volume aligns with ELA Common Core Standards to give students a fresh perspective on and a keener understanding of slavery in the United States.

Slavery is a central feature of American history, one with which the nation still has not come fully to terms. In this book, that seminal topic is examined in a fresh way—through literature. Organized chronologically to show evolving attitudes toward American slavery in the 19th century, the work focuses on four key 19th-century texts that are frequently taught, using them as a gateway for understanding this critical period and why slavery had to be destroyed if the Union was to be maintained.

In addition to examining the four works—Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn—the book also provides numerous historical documents that contextualize slavery in the literary texts. These documents make it dramatically clear why issues such as abolition and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 were so controversial for 19th-century Americans. Aligned with the ELA Common Core Standards, the title supports history teachers with insights into classic literary works, and it enhances the English curriculum with rich elaborations of relevant historical context.


  • Helps students understand classic works of American literature from the slavery era by putting them in the context of history, society, and culture
  • Helps students understand social and political issues relative to slavery by analyzing their appearance in period literature
  • Documents how African Americans have been able to combat slavery and racism against almost insurmountable odds
  • Provides teachers with a ready-reference that aligns with Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) in Social Studies (informational texts)
  • Includes support tools such as document excerpts, discussion questions and areas for study, and guidance on further research
Robert Felgar, PhD, is professor of English and department head at Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL. His published works include ABC-CLIO's Understanding Richard Wright's Black Boy: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents and Student Companion to Richard Wright, as well as Richard Wright. Felgar holds a doctorate in English from Duke University.
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