Perfectly White: Light-Skinned Slaves and the Abolition Movement 1835 - 1865

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2017-06-29
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

This project looks at American abolitionists use of light-skinned slaves to prove to Northerners slavery was an abomination. This project is also a study of the social constructions of race and the meanings of skin color in Northern and Southern American societies. This research draws mostly upon primary sources including anti-slavery newspapers, images, slave narratives, and slave testimonies. The stories of light-skinned slaves in this thesis challenged the neat assumptions of what it meant to be white or black and deeply disturbed white Americans. The descriptions and images of these former slaves blurred the lines between black and white and made Northerners, and in some instances Southerners, rethink how they decided a person's racial classification. Light-skinned slaves were living proof of the evils of the American slave system and they were one of the tools abolitionists used to help end slavery.

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slavery, abolition
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