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The Ties that BindTransatlantic Abolitionism in the Age of Reform, c. 1820-1866$
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J. R. Oldfield

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789622003

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789622003.001.0001

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Singing Abolition

Singing Abolition

(p.117) 5 Singing Abolition
The Ties that Bind

J. R. Oldfield

Liverpool University Press

This Chapter deals with a hitherto neglected aspect of anti-slavery opinion building, namely the role of anti-slavery songs. Hundreds of these songs – really abolitionist poems set to popular melodies -- were produced during the nineteenth century, on topics as diverse as the slave experience and contemporary public events. In essence, these were protest songs, designed to inform and inspire. The Chapter also looks at the emergence of anti-slavery performers, chief among them the Hutchinson Family Singers from New Hampshire, who electrified audiences during the 1840s with their performances. In 1846, the Hutchinsons visited Britain where they met with a different reception, their peculiar brand of musical advocacy alienating some section of the British public. The chapter analyses the reasons for this ‘failure’, while concluding with a discussion of spirituals (slave songs) as performed by African American visitors to the UK, among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.

Keywords:   Anti-slavery songs, Hutchinson Family Singers, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Spirituals

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