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Selling Antislavery
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Selling Antislavery
Abolition and Mass Media in Antebellum America

Teresa A. Goddu

344 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 78 illus.
Cloth 2020 | ISBN 9780812251999 | $55.00s | Outside the Americas £44.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Material Texts
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"This meticulously researched and crisply argued book manages the interlocking commercial, sentimental, and political formations of 19th-century U.S. print and material cultures with nuance and analytical dexterity...Goddu’s book represents the crucial work that print and material culture studies do. Her readings texture conversations of the literary with material and print cultures’ tangible, quotidian presences...[Selling Antislavery] is a model of how to contextualize whiteness and its various communities and identities and practices, helping us to think about how whiteness as an identity mobilizes racial politics to define itself not just seemingly against Blackness, but also seemingly against racism and anti-Blackness."—Textual Cultures

"What makes Selling Antislavery essential reading is the breadth of its research, the depth of its analysis, and the way it demonstrates that 'the movement's rhetorical approaches were consolidated by its material practices'...Selling Antislavery will interest early Americanists for how it moves from the decades of antislavery activism before the 1830s through the 1860s. It is an important study for anyone interested in the history of media, politics, and culture in the United States."—Early American Literature

"The significance of Selling Antislavery can hardly be overstated. The book should revise how scholars understand and teach the literature and media culture of the antebellum antislavery movement. Seminal antislavery texts and figures are compellingly recast through Goddu's novel readings, and through the book's lavish archival tapestry, which brings to light a trove of otherwise inaccessible multimodal antislavery media. Impressive as all of this is, Selling Antislavery's importance and utility are broader than the historical bounds of its archival materials might suggest. In an era when 'fake news' and 'alternative facts' have taken over U.S. media and mainstream political speech, the example of institutional antislavery's media strategies resonates with a variety of contemporary political conversations and movements, and might serve as a cautionary tale as well as inspirational spur for progressive causes from climate change activism to white antiracist allyship."—Women's Studies

"Selling Antislavery offers a richly detailed and meticulously researched interrogation of the American Antislavery Society's print, visual,and material culture. Goddu's careful analysis of the ways these objects and texts shaped the tastes, perspective, and identity of those white northerners who would come to define the region's middle class is especially compelling."—Winterthur Portfolio

"Selling Antislavery provides a comprehensive analysis of the fascinating material culture of abolitionism: quirky almanacs, women's Christmas fairs, lavish gift annuals, and grand panoramas of southern slavery and black achievement. It is the book for which slavery studies—and American studies more broadly—has been waiting."—Jeannine DeLombard, author of In the Shadows of the Gallows: Race, Crime, and American Civic Identity

"Through a multimedia array of case studies, Teresa A. Goddu focuses on the business-minded corporatism of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Her book is a much-needed history of the key dynamic that drove the rapid evolution of the antislavery effort in the United States from a small, heterogenous, and unpopular collection of gradualists and radicals into an organized and efficient mass movement."—Marcy Dinius, author of The Camera and the Press: American Visual and Print Culture in the Age of the Daguerreotype

A richly illustrated history of the American Anti-Slavery Society and its print, material, and visual artifacts

Beginning with its establishment in the early 1830s, the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) recognized the need to reach and consolidate a diverse and increasingly segmented audience. To do so, it produced a wide array of print, material, and visual media: almanacs and slave narratives, pincushions and gift books, broadsides and panoramas. Building on the distinctive practices of British antislavery and evangelical reform movements, the AASS utilized innovative business strategies to market its productions and developed a centralized distribution system to circulate them widely. In Selling Antislavery, Teresa A. Goddu shows how the AASS operated at the forefront of a new culture industry and, by framing its media as cultural commodities, made antislavery sentiments an integral part of an emerging middle-class identity. She contends that, although the AASS's dominance waned after 1840 as the organization splintered, it nevertheless created one of the first national mass markets.

Goddu maps this extensive media culture, focusing in particular on the material produced by AASS in the decade of the 1830s. She considers how the dissemination of its texts, objects, and tactics was facilitated by the quasi-corporate and centralized character of the organization during this period and demonstrates how its institutional presence remained important to the progress of the larger movement. Exploring antislavery's vast archive and explicating its messages, she emphasizes both the discursive and material aspects of antislavery's appeal, providing a richly textured history of the movement through its artifacts and the modes of circulation it put into place.

Featuring more than seventy-five illustrations, Selling Antislavery offers a thorough case study of the role of reform movements in the rise of mass media and argues for abolition's central importance to the shaping of antebellum middle-class culture.

Teresa A. Goddu is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University and author of Gothic America: Narrative, History, and Nation.

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