The Journey Through American Literature


Virginia Slave Codes


In the year 1705, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law which transformed black indentured servants into slaves. The Virginia Slave Act of 1705 condemned many men, women, and children to a lifetime of slavery, even if they were only days away from being freed of their indentured status.



Neo-classicism is a period in English literature that took place during the mid 1700's. However, today neo-classicism is most commonly referred to as the Enlightenment. During this time era new attitudes developed towards the principles of life and critiquing the ideals of logic, order, restraint and reason. Focusing on science and empiricism.

Wheatley, "On Being Brought From Africa To America"


Phillis Wheatley's poem is known for Phillis' experience of being brought to America from Africa. The poem then mixes the themes of slavery with that of Christianity and Salvation. Thus addressing racial inequality and liberty through religion.

Declaration of Independence


During this time period the thirteen American colonies were at war with Great Britain, and regarded themselves as thirteen newly independent sovereign states. Which had no longer placed them under British rule. Instead they formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Jefferson, "On Slavery"


Jefferson's views on blacks and slaves were quite complex. At one time he thought blacks were naturally inferior to other races, but later conceded that servitude may have had an impact on their abilities.Though Jefferson's biggest fear which prohibited him from freeing slaves was the fear of mixing races because this was unknown to history.

Crevecoeur, "Letter IX"


Letter IX is apart of a series of letters that revealed the truth about slave trade. An account of "Charles Town" particularly on the institution of slavery in the town and in the Southern United States. It argues about the destruction that revolves around the slave-master relationships and makes an appeal to the North, in particular, that slavery is a truly evil practice developing within America.

United States Constitution


The Constitution is the founding document and the law of the land for the United States which ratified the rights of man. Enabling man to have inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


1800 - 1850

Romanticism is a period in arts and literature that took place during the 18th century. This time era embraced the ideal of life experience through the feeling and discovering the truth through emotion. Romanticism emphasized the imagination and stressed nature over culture and individuals within society.

Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


Douglass's novel is a didactic autobiography as he teaches his audience about slavery through his own experience. Nonetheless he shows his charismatic personality in a strong political message of abolishing slavery through his belief in rights of man. (Realism and Sentimentalism)

Fugitive Slave Act


Fugitive Slave Acts were a pair of federal laws that allowed for the capture and return of runaway slaves within the territory of the United States.(Also including punishment for both slave and any persons who helped aid the slave) These were the most controversial laws among the Northern and Southern States.

Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin


In this novel Stowe analyzes the idea of the structure of institution. Stowe believes that the story of slavery is like a structured system. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement. This novel is believed to be the groundwork for the Civil War. (Neo- classicism, Romanticism, Sentimentalism, Realism and Local Color.)

Kansas-Nebraska Act


The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 30, 1854. It allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within their borders. The Act served to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30´.

President Lincoln was elected


The year 1860 was a pivotal year for the United States. Going into the election of 1860 slavery was a debate of conversation and tensions among the North and South was at its best. However Lincoln wanted to end the "peculiar institution," or better known as slavery and form a compromise of territory between North and South.


1860 - 1890

Realism is broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude,"Similar to Romanticism realism focuses on individuals within a society and the experience that is being lived through. Realism is often crafted to be relate to that of other people's lives.

Lincoln First Inaugural Address


Lincoln's Inaugural Address was used to address slave states by saying he only wants to talk about the big issue. Lincoln reassures the South that he is not interested in taking away their "property" slaves or their peace. He ultimately wanted to calm the leaders of Southern slave states to keep them from seceding.

Civil War

1861 - 1865

The Civil War was an American war fought during the course of four years beginning in April of 1861. The war had its view on the factious issue of slavery as it divide the North and South into two. Fighting for the North were the Union soldiers and fighting for the South were the confederate soldiers.The North having a greater advantage wins what is called to be one of the bloodiest wars.

Alcott, My Contraband

1863 - 1864

In this short story Alcott is writing as a nurse during the Civil War. She goes on to describe the horror and traumatic events that soldiers are living through. One case in particular case is that of a black contraband and his brother.

Battle of Gettysburg


Concurrent to the Civil War the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in 1863 over the course of three days,T The war having the highest number of causalities. This war was lead by the "Pickett's Charge" Robert Lee's attempt to invade the North after the first attempt had previously been a fail. The North rejoiced while the South mourned, its hopes for foreign recognition of the Confederacy erased.

Gettysburg Address


One of the most famous speeches in American history given by President Lincoln. The significance of the speech was that it was given in Gettysburg Pennsylvania to commemorate the fallen soldiers that had risks their lives in one of the deadliest battles of time. Lincoln used this speech not only to honor the men of war but to unite the nation.

Tyler, Buried Alive


Addresses the life of war face to face in recognizing death to that of an individual and not a unit. By listing the names of the soldiers that have died captures not only the real life experience but honors the person as an individual an d not just that of the Union or Confederate.

Plantation Tradition


Plantation Tradition is the subcategory of Southern local color or regionalism popular primarily after the Civil War.The term "plantation tradition" applies to works that look back nostalgically to the times before the Civil War, before the "Lost Cause" of the Southern Confederacy was lost. It elevated and perpetuated the myth of an idyllic Old South.



Sentimentalism is the practice of being sentimental, or the tendency to base actions and reactions from emotions and feelings as opposed to reason.


1865 - 1877

The Union victory in the Civil War in 1865 may have granted slaves their freedom, but the process of rebuilding the South during the Reconstruction period introduced a new set of significant challenges. New southern state legislatures passed restrictive “black codes” to control the labor and behavior of former slaves and other African Americans.

Regionalism and Local Color Fiction

1865 - 1895

Focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region. Regional character types, use of dialect, themes of old versus new ways and contributed to the reunification of the country and the building of national identity toward the end of the nineteenth century.A travel literature that introduced readers to their own nation.

Reconstruction Acts


The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 laid out the process for readmitting Southern states into the Union. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) provided former slaves with national citizenship, and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) granted black men the right to vote.

Page, Uncle Gabe's White Folks


Is a representation of Southern dialect that is used to convince readers of the truth within the themes of Plantation Tradition. Thus its rhetorical purpose being entertainment the historical content is told through the series of questions being answered from a young master that has lived there many years before.

Whitman, Specimen Days


Chopin, Desiree's Baby


In Chopin's Desiree's Bay the audience gets a vivid image of a "Southern" women and what it means to hold this title. In direct correlation with the Plantation Tradition we see just how much Desiree means to Armand as he will go through any measure to protect his pride possession. Thus shown through the obsession of his child. Even though they both share a same secret in such Desiree is ostracized for.

Crane, The Red Badge of Courage


The Red Badge of Courage is a novel that takes place during the Civil War. The story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. His obsession with being known to be a hero of the war is provides a psychological twist as Crane focuses more on the inner experience of Henry's life than that of the world around him. ( Sentimentalism and Realism)

Chesnutt, The passing of Grandison


Plays on the idea of paternalism in a sense of what it means to be a happy darkie. It toys with the concept of good master vs bad master. In addition this short story questions to what extent does one go in terms of sacrificing what is best for their family.



The Modernist Period in English Literature occupied the years from shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century through roughly 1965. This period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with the world. Experimentation and individualism became virtues, where in the past they were often heartily discouraged. Modernism was set in motion, in one sense, through a series of cultural shocks.

Griffith, Birth of a Nation (Film)


Birth of a Nation was a silent film that depicts the events that happened during the Civil War and Reconstruction. This film also captures the rise of the KKK in their efforts to be heroic and restore the South.

Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!


Faulkner creatively structures this novel through the repetition of family history. and also makes reference to the Civil War. Faulkner uses three narrators to trace back the history and life of Thomas Sutpen. However, there are stories that go untold as well as stories that are continuously getting reinterpreted leaving the reader to discover ad determine their own truth. ( Modernism, Romanticism, Sentimentalism and Realism)

Wright, Bright and Morning Star


Much like that of Uncle Tom's Cabin this story focuses on the life of Sue (an elder mother of two sons.) Sue is a descendant of slaves, living in the South where Jim Crow laws prevail, under which blacks are systematically denied civil and political rights and their labor is exploited. Sue is the reflection of the continuation of poverty stricken black individuals who are fearful of the power of white men. In the end political injustices lead to death and sacrifice.

Morrison, Beloved


Toni Morrison's Beloved is written after the Civil War. Beloved is a story about the unveiling of America's relationship with slavery. However Morrison also a story that focuses on the past and is about rebirth and redemption for those who seem irredeemable. (Modernism / magical realism )