Slavery was the defining moral issue of young America. Proponents argued that the business of bondage was essential to the economy, but many were troubled by its injustices and felt that it underminded foundational American values.
The antislavery abolitionist movement gained momentum in the mid-1800s through passionate speeches and persuasive writing: newspaper articles, fiction, poetry, and the new literary genre of slave narratives. Abolitionist writers articulated the primary arguments against slavery and, perhaps even more importantly, exposed to readers the horrifying brutality and psychological anguish suffered by the enslaved. These writers set the U.S. on the path toward abolishing slavery and ensuring equal rights for all Americans.