Beginning with its establishment in the early 1830s, the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) recognized the need to reach and consolidate a diverse and increasingly segmented audience. To do so, it produced a wide array of print, material, and visual media: almanacs and slave narratives, pincushions and gift books, broadsides and panoramas. Building on the distinctive practices of British antislavery and Evangelical reform movements, the AASS utilized innovative business strategies to market its productions and developed a centralized distribution system to circulate them widely. In Selling Antislavery, Teresa A. Goddu shows how the AASS operated at the forefront of a new culture industry and, by framing its media as cultural commodities, made antislavery sentiments an integral part of an emerging middle-class identity. She contends that, although the AASS's dominance waned after 1840 as the organization splintered, it nevertheless created one of the first national mass markets.
Goddu maps this extensive media culture, focusing in particular on the material produced by AASS in the decade of the 1830s. She considers how the dissemination of its texts, objects, and tactics was facilitated by the quasi-corporate and centralized character of the organization during this period and demonstrates how its institutional presence remained important to the progress of the larger movement. Exploring antislavery's vast media archive and explicating its messages, she emphasizes both the discursive and material aspects of antislavery's appeal, providing a richly textured history of the movement through its artifacts and the modes of circulation it put into place.
Featuring more than 75 illustrations, Selling Antislavery offers a thorough case study of the role of reform movements in the rise of mass media and argues for abolition's central importance to the shaping of antebellum middle-class culture.
"Through a multimedia array of case studies, Teresa A. Goddu focuses on the business-minded corporatism of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Her book is a much-needed history of the key dynamic that drove the rapid evolution of the antislavery effort in the United States from a small, heterogenous, and unpopular collection of gradualists and radicals into an organized and efficient mass movement."—Marcy Dinius, author of The Camera and the Press: American Visual and Print Culture in the Age of the Daguerreotype
"Selling Antislavery provides a comprehensive analysis of the fascinating material culture of abolitionism: quirky almanacs; women's Christmas fairs; lavish gift annuals; and grand panoramas of Southern slavery and Black achievement. It is the book for which slavery studies—and American studies more broadly—has been waiting."—Jeannine DeLombard, author of In the Shadows of the Gallows: Race, Crime, and American Civic Identity