The long fight against American slavery produced some of the most powerful autobiographies and works of fiction in American history. This four-evening book discussion series offers the chance to learn about, read, and informally discuss classics of the period by men and women, both black and white, who were central figures in the struggle to destroy race slavery in the United States.
Join Richard Bell, a professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park, for short and vivid lectures about each work, followed by an inclusive discussion driven by comments and questions. Participants should read the week’s book before each session. Sherry and cookies are available for refreshment.
Please Note: Individual sessions are available for separate purchase. Click on the featured dates below for individual pricing information.
JAN 31 Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The best-known memoir written by a runaway slave, Douglass’s 1845 autobiography is charged with his distinctive moral clarity as it describes his youth on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Baltimore—and his burning desire for freedom.
FEB 28 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The best-selling book of the 19th century, Stowe’s 1852 novel of plantation life is an adventure story, a romance, a sentimental tear-jerker, and a missionary tract all rolled into one. Readers either loved it or hated it, and many people then and now believe its publication brought the nation to the brink of civil war.
MAR 28 William Wells Brown, Clotel
Clotel, from 1853, is the first novel ever published by an African American author. It is an heroic escape story about a female fugitive, which lightly fictionalizes the scandalous sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.
APR 25 Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave
The source material for the 2013 Oscar-winning film, Twelve Years a Slave is Northup’s achingly powerful account of being kidnapped from upstate New York in 1841 and then sold into slavery in the Deep South, where he labored for more than a decade to try to escape and return to his family.
Listen to Richard Bell’s interview on the Not Old Better podcast with host Paul Vogelzang.