TITLE: Liberty or Death: Slaves' Suicides & the Fight to Destroy American Slavery
SPEAKER: Richard Bell
EVENT DATE: 08/18/2011
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 71 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
As northern abolitionists set about trying to exploit mass media to denounce and destroy American slavery, they found themselves wrestling with the problem of slave suicide. Was it an act of principled resistance to tyranny that struck at the heart of the plantation economy? Or was it a measure of abject victimhood that begged to be mourned and avenged through humanitarian intervention? Kluge Fellow Richard Bell describes the deep differences within the northern abolitionist movement as to who had the power to bring slavery to its knees: white evangelicals who might be moved to action by displays of wretched slave suffering, or black slaves with the courage to fight and die for their freedom.
Speaker Biography: Richard Bell is a professor of history at the University of Maryland. Bell has held research fellowships at more than a dozen libraries and institutes. Since 2006 he has served as the Mellon Fellow in American History at Cambridge University, the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society, a Mayer Fellow at the Huntington Library, a research fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition and Resistance at Yale University and as a resident fellow at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He is currently at work upon a new book-length study of a female Marylander who kidnapped free black people and sold them into slavery in Mississippi in the 1810s and 1820s.