By Callie Hawkins
In 1846 Hannah Townsend, a member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, published the Anti-Slavery Alphabet, a pamphlet written to explain the horrors of slavery to children. Townsend and other members of the Society understood that, if they could reach children with messages like “K is the Kidnapper, who stole That little child and mother—Shrieking, it clung around her, but He tore them from each other,” they would have an opportunity to create a new generation of abolitionists whose opposition to slavery would spread to their playmates and parents, creating lasting change. As one journalist recently wrote, this pamphlet was “not subtle or nuanced.” It plainly and unapologetically depicted the physical violence inflicted by enslavers, the agency of the enslaved, and the complicities of those who fueled the system. But it also provided children a vocabulary with which to discuss these horrors at ages significant to the development of their identity and world view.
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