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Sat, 03.21.1863

Journal of Resistance on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-1839 is Published

*On this date in 1863, the book Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839 was published. This is an account by Fanny Kemble of the time spent on her husband's plantation in Butler Island, Georgia.

The account was not published until 1863 after her marriage had ended and the American Civil War had begun. According to PBS, she decided to publish it then "in response to England's hostility toward the North and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation." The Journal documents Kemble's initial appreciation of plantation life except for "the one small thing of 'the slavery'" and her growing horror with the system.

The unpublished account was read widely by abolitionists before the American Civil War. Kemble had been reluctant to publish it because of ongoing tensions with her former husband. Still, when the Civil War started and Britain supported the Confederacy, she decided to publish to try to change Britain's views of the Confederacy, the war, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1960, the historian Margaret Davis Cate published a "scathing critique" sympathetic to the plantation system and vilified Kemble's description of it in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.  Modern critics note that Kemble primarily argued for improved conditions for enslaved people and that her abolitionist views were based on the "moral failings" of slave owners. Impact Kemble's Journal changed how Britain viewed the Confederacy and the Emancipation Proclamation and affected feelings in Britain on helping the Confederacy.

According to Encyclopedia.com, Kemble's "lasting historical importance... derives from the private journal she kept during her time in the Sea Islands." According to the University of Georgia Press, which has the book in reprint, it "has long been recognized by historians as unique in the literature of American slavery." The Journal inspired the one-woman show "Shame the Devil: An Audience with Fanny Kemble" by Ann Ludlum, produced in Brunswick, Georgia, in 2016.

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