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An Abolitionist Play
Read the descriptions below of five women who played leadership roles in the
abolitionist movement. As you read, think about how they would argue their
opinions about the issue of biracial membership in abolitionist
- SARAH FORTEN
was the daughter of one of the wealthiest African American men in
nineteenth-century America – James Forten who made his fortune as a sailmaker. She attended
private school, where she studied art, music, French, and German as well as
other academic subjects. Her parents' home was always a center of activity for
the abolitionist movement. She and her sisters and mother were founding
members of the biracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, founded in
- SOJOURNER TRUTH, born Isabella Baumfree, was an enslaved African
American woman who obtained her freedom in 1827 at the age of 30. Truth moved
to New York City, where she worked as a domestic servant until 1843 when, with
the help of European American abolitionists, she went on the abolitionist
"lecture circuit" to educate Americans about the evils of slavery.
- MARY SHADD was the daughter of a wealthy African
American shoemaker of Delaware. Her entire family was involved in the
abolitionist movement. Mary emigrated to Canada in 1851 when she was 28 years
old. Especially after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, she believed
that it was nearly impossible to change racist American society attitudes and
felt that African Americans should emigrate to Canada. Furthermore, she felt
the abolitionist movement was dominated by European Americans, exhibited
racist attitudes, and relied primarily on unsuccessful tactics.
- LUCY STONE was the daughter of a poor European American farmer. Working as
a housekeeper, laundress, and teacher, she earned her tuition and attended
Oberlin College, the first American college to admit women and African
Americans. She became a member and speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society of
Massachusetts, an organization that was not biracial.
- LUCRETIA MOTT, a European American woman, was one of the initiators of the
first Women's Rights Conference of 1848. She was also a leader in the
Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, a biracial organization.
Imagine that these five women had come together for a
special meeting to discuss the issue of biracial membership in the
abolitionist movement. Write a short, one-act play depicting the dialogue that
occurred among these five women during this meeting. Below is a possible
beginning for your play! Add to it – expressing the opinion of each of the
above mentioned women!
Ladies, we have gathered here this evening to discuss a
very delicate and controversial question of the abolitionist movement: Should
European American and African American women belong to the same organizations?
You know my opinion on this issue. I would like to hear some of your opinions.
Excerpted from: Multicultural Activities for the American History Classroom