Slavery and Sentiment

The Politics of Feeling in Black Atlantic Antislavery Writing, 1770-1850

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From the eighteenth century on, appeals to listeners’ and readers’ feelings about the sufferings of slaves were a predominant strategy of abolitionism. This book argues that expressions of feeling in those texts did not just appeal to individual readers’ inclinations to sympathy but rather were inherently political. The authors of these texts made arguments from the social and political ideologies that grounded their moral and social lives.

Levecq examines liberalism and republicanism, the main Anglo-American political ideologies of the period, in the antislavery texts of a range of African-American and Afro-British authors. Disclosing the political content hitherto unexamined in this kind of writing, she shows that while the overall story is one of increased liberalization of ideology on both sides of the Atlantic, the republican ideal persisted, particularly among black authors with transatlantic connections.

Demonstrating that such writers as Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Mary Prince were men and women of their times, Levecq provides valuable new insight into the ideological world of black Atlantic writers and puts them, for the first time, on modernity’s political map.

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