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Historical Document
Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation

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"I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty, knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution." This line, written in a letter to a friend one year after leaving the Butler plantations, expresses Fanny Kemble's aversion to slavery. She had been working on her journal -- a revealing look at southern plantations in which she detailed the injustices of slavery -- but another two decades would pass before her journal would be published.

Kemble was still married at the time she wrote the journal, and publishing the "expose" was out of the question with her slave-owning husband. His influence over her actions diminished after their divorce in 1849, though, and with the sale of his slaves in 1859, the plantation she had written about no longer existed. Her decision to publish, though, wasn't triggered until after the start of the Civil War, in response to England's hostility toward the North and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. If only she could convince England of the reasons behind the Proclamation, she reasoned, they would side with the North.

The journal, entitled Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, was published in England in May of 1863, 22 years after her visit to Butler and St. Simons Islands. It did indeed help to mobilize English sentiment against the Confederacy. An American version was published in July of the same year.

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Butler Island

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