“F Is for Fugitive”: A Fantastic 1864 Children’s Book About the Evil of Slavery

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 24 2013 11:30 AM

“F Is for Fugitive”: A Fantastic 1864 Children’s Book About the Evil of Slavery

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Abel Thomas, a Unitarian minister, writer, and antislavery activist from Philadelphia, published Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom, a children’s A-to-Z book about the evils of slavery, in 1864.

Abolitionists in the antebellum period made periodic attempts to win over young audiences. On the whole, however, as historian James Marten has written, children’s literature about the Civil War emphasized the adventure of war and the joy of patriotism and encouraged children to be strong in the absence of their fathers. This larger picture makes Thomas’ Gospel of Slavery even more unusual.

Advertisement

The book is vivid and unsparing as it describes the separation of slave families and the sad plight of young female slaves. The W (“Woman”) page bemoans the fact that enslaved women’s “sham” marriages wouldn’t provide them with protection against their family members being sold. The page for Q (“Query”) asks disturbing and provocative questions about the origins and fate of “quadroons,” or mixed-race enslaved people.

The Gospel of Slavery gave credit to enslaved people for their own efforts at escaping. The page for F (“Fugitives”) calls fugitives’ plans “patient” and “shrewd,” noting how difficult some of the escapes could be. Telling the story of escapes was also a good way for the writer to shoehorn adventure into a book for young people; the page for B, “Bloodhound,” contains a grisly illustration and mention of “merciless fangs.”

You can read the entire e-book of Abel Thomas’ Gospel of Slavery on the website of Cornell’s Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection or at the Internet Archive.

B Stands For Bloodhound

Abel Thomas, The Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom. Boston Public Library Anti-Slavery Collection, Internet Archive.

FugitivesFinal

Abel Thomas, The Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom.Boston Public Library Anti-Slavery Collection, Internet Archive.

WomanFinal

Abel Thomas, The Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom.Boston Public Library Anti-Slavery Collection, Internet Archive.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.