Pro- and Anti-Slavery Literature for Children

Two examples of antebellum propaganda written to shape the minds of children.

Anti-Slavery Alphabet

Townsend, Hannah, 1812-, “The Anti-Slavery Alphabet,” The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865.

The Southern Rose

Caroline Howard Gilman, “The Southern Review” Southern Rose Bud, March 30, 1839. New-York Historical Society Library.

The Southern Rose

Caroline Howard Gilman, “The Southern Review” Southern Rose Bud, March 30, 1839. New-York Historical Society Library.


The debate over slavery in the United States began to dominate national politics in the 1830s and 1840s. Pro-slavery advocates as well as abolitionists started to print books and pamphlets made specifically for children. Both sides hoped that they were raising a new generation of supporters who accepted their arguments as established truths.

In the 1800s, women were responsible for the moral education of children. Writing books for children was an accepted way women could publicly share their political opinions.

About the Document

Hannah and Mary Townsend, two Quaker sisters who belonged to the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, wrote The Anti-Slavery Alphabet. They wrote the book for a very young audience. They hoped that parents would use it to teach their children to recognize their letters and support the abolitionist movement. It was first sold at the 1846 Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Fair.

The Southern Rose (also called The Rose Bud and The Southern Rosebud) was a literary magazine for children written by Caroline Howard Gilman. The magazine was published from 1832 to 1839. Gilman was a Northern woman who moved to Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband and fully adopted the Southern way of life. She believed that slavery was a natural and beneficial part of American culture. She gave her young readers advice for how to best manage enslaved people. She also wrote negative reviews of abolitionist children’s literature. In this piece, she tells her young readers to be careful when reading publications from Northern states that seek to end slavery and destroy the Southern way of life.


  • abolitionist: A person or group that wanted to end the practice of slavery.
  • aspirants: Hopefuls.
  • assail: To attack.
  • avarice: Extreme greed.
  • concerted: Intensive.
  • Confederacy: Country.
  • constitute: Make up.
  • odium: Hatred.
  • organ: Magazine.
  • patrimony: Heritage.
  • philanthropists: People who give money to charitable causes.
  • piece-meal: A little at a time.
  • propaganda: Information used to promote a particular political view.
  • Quaker: A Christian religious group founded in the 1650s. Quakers were early advocates for ending slavery in the United States.
  • Quarterly Reviews: Magazines about books, politics, and philosophy.
  • scruples: Doubts.
  • sectional: Geographical.
  • subvert: Undermine.
  • zeal: Enthusiasm.

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