Slaves and Serfs in the Post-Emancipation Imagination, 1861-1915 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Bellows, Amanda
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This dissertation is the first comparative analysis of mass-oriented representations of African-American slaves and Russian serfs produced during the post-emancipation era. The abolition of Russian serfdom (1861) and U.S. slavery (1865) were pivotal events that inaugurated a half-century of significant change. Emancipation freed two enslaved groups of people, but liberty proved to be disquieting as the former bondsmen, suddenly citizens and subjects, strove for absorption into the national polity. In both countries, the processes of assimilation occurred during decades characterized by territorial expansion, population growth, and industrialization, phenomena that further complicated conceptions of American and Russian national identity. This study analyzes the ways in which authors, artists, and businesses responded to emancipation by deploying images of serfs, peasants, slaves, and freedpeople in literature, periodicals, paintings, and advertisements. In these sources, serfs and slaves appeared as victims on the eve of abolition, as contented rural laborers whose simple way of life attracted nostalgic audiences during an industrial, expansionist age, and, at the turn of the twentieth century, as urban migrants striving to improve their lives. Acts of imagination and remembrances, these portrayals were a lexicon of representation that creators and audiences endowed with significance and interpreted in competing ways. This dissertation demonstrates the ways in which textual and visual images shaped and reflected collective memories of serfdom and slavery, affected the development of national consciousness, and influenced popular opinion as Russians and Americans struggled to incorporate former bondsmen into the social order. Furthermore, this project’s examination of representational similarities and differences within their respective historical contexts prompts the consideration of the extent to which factors like race, ethnicity, economic status, and political power influenced Russians’ and Americans’ attitudes toward former bondsmen during an era of societal transformation.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • McReynolds, Louise
  • Kolchin, Peter
  • Williams, Heather Andrea
  • Brundage, W. Fitzhugh
  • Barney, William
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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