Slavery in Literature

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What is the theme of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper's speech "The Great Problem to Be Solved"?

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Harper first gave her speech "The Great Problem to Be Solved" on April 14th, 1875 at the Centennial Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. As Harper spoke, the policies of Reconstruction were beginning to show their first failures to effectively transform Southern society. White supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan were aggressively attacking, intimidating and killing African Americans. Harper focused her speech on the power of American democracy to give equal rights to those "four million of people but lately translated from the old oligarchy of slavery to the new commonwealth of freedom". The great problem to be solved is precisely that of securing an effective improvement in the lives of black people. harper argues that African Americans should learn to organize themselves and pursue their own agendas rather those of the two main political parties. Harper gives black women a particularly important role in this task of reorganizing the race in more independent terms.




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