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Reading Corner | Grimke sisters’ writings in ‘On Slavery’ is ‘astounding and incredibly thorough’

Last year, the best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd released “The Invention of Wings,” an inspirational book of fiction based on actual people and historical facts that moved the hearts of many throughout the country.

Not long after, the Grimké sisters were in print again, this time with their essays and letters that served as the inspiration for the novel in one collection.

“On Slavery and Abolitionism” is a compilation of stories about Sarah and Angelina Grimké who were dedicated abolitionists and women’s rights activists of the early- to mid-1800s and native South Carolinians. An array of their letters and essays have been gathered together and introduced by Mark Perry, an acclaimed American historian who has covered these inspirational ladies before.

Born in Charleston, the Grimké sisters witnessed firsthand the inhumanity of slavery and the injustice of women. Both women knew from early on the severe state of inequality embroiled in the young nation was disastrous and cruel.

Despite their love of the South and the Lowcountry, Angelina and Sarah spent much of their adult lives living in the North and making waves in the nation as the first female representatives in the American Anti-Slavery Society. Sarah also became the first author to write a public argument for women’s equality.

The level at which both women wrote, coupled with their research and widespread knowledge, is astounding and incredibly thorough. Although the majority of the collection is made up of Angelina’s writings, both sisters share the practice of laying out each argument of their opponents and breaking down why they’re wrong with historic facts and evidence.

Sarah and Angelina use these techniques both when discussing female rights and abolitionism.

Throughout their letters and essays, their passion for the subjects is evident, and though they have strong emotions their writing remains straightforward and factual. Reading their development of the subjects and their eventual understanding that the two topics stem from one concept – human rights – is exciting.

Though their English is considered antiquated in the modern day, everything is still easy to comprehend, although it’s easy to get lost in the facts the educated women rain down. Still, close to two centuries later, their well-researched thoughts and passion on the subjects ring true. If Sarah and Angelina were still alive, there is no doubt these wonderfully brilliant and outspoken women would be disappointed with how slow the country has moved in regards to human rights, while also being at the head of the feminist movement.

South Carolina should be proud to have the Grimké as part of our history. The cultural significance their writing holds for this country makes this collection by the Grimké sisters something that should be read by all Americans, not just students of history. The heavy influence of their Christian beliefs may make it difficult for some to get through, but ultimately their passion for human rights is something that should never be forgotten.

Emily Smith, For The Sun News.

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Title | On Slavery and Abolitionism

Authors | Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké

Publisher | Penguin Classics

Length | 331 pages

Price | $16

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