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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  142 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Originally published in 1863, out-of-print and unavailable for almost a century, Frances Anne Kemble's Journal has long been recognized by historians as unique in the literature of American slavery and invaluable for obtaining a clear view of the "peculiar institution" and of life in the antebellum South.Fanny Kemble was one of the leading lights of the English stage in th ...more
Paperback, Brown Thrasher, 415 pages
Published March 1st 1984 by University of Georgia Press (first published 1863)
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Jeff Crompton
Sep 14, 2012 Jeff Crompton rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that I'm glad I read, but was glad to be finished with. Before I read it, I knew that Kemble was a British actress who spent a winter on a Georgia plantation before the Civil War, but I didn't know the whole story, which was only slowly revealed in the text. (A little web research clarified a lot of points for me.) Kemble married an American man who subsequently inherited two plantations, on Butler Island and St. Simons Island. Kemble suddenly found, to her horror, tha ...more
Aug 24, 2014 Catherine rated it really liked it
English actress Fanny Kemble, who married Philadelphian Pierce Butler in 1834, spent the winter and spring of 1838-39 with her husband and their two young daughters on plantations her husband inherited in Georgia. Already philosophically opposed to slavery, Fanny wrote a journal about her observations and experiences in the form of letters to a friend, which were never sent. This was published during the Civil War, more than 10 years after she and Pierce divorced and she returned to England.

Aug 27, 2014 Shira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important reading.

How on earth could the slave owners and overseers not realize that in listening to the complaints of the slaves, this woman was actually doing the owners themselves a favor -rather than increasing discontent, listening gave an outlet to those slaves who confided in her, thus actually decreasing their discontent by making them feel heard, and actually adding years to the lives of the masters and overseers. Had the slaves not felt listened to, they might have slit the throats o
Hannah R. Miller
Apr 10, 2014 Hannah R. Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of letters written by Frances Kemble-Butler to her friend Elizabeth Sedgwick, a notable American novelist. Fanny is a British actress who married an American man, not knowing when she married him that he would someday inherit a large plantation with hundreds of slaves. Fanny is an abolitionist. In these letters she recounts the day to life she is experiencing in Georgia. Her observations are fascinating as she recounts first hand the conditions endured by the slaves. She at ...more
Bob Wratz
Jun 28, 2009 Bob Wratz rated it it was amazing
After having read this, my father-in-law took it up on a visit. He wasn't finished when it was his time to leave so I gave it to him. When I started rebuilding my library I decided I had to purchase it again. I never really fully understood the horrors of slavery until I read this book. Frances Anne Kemble was an amazing and brave woman.
This is NOT the edition I have, but it has the same ISBN number, so what can you do? My copy has a brown cover with a different picture.

Early in this book, the author dismisses Harriet Martineau's argument that the growing mechanization of agriculture would eventually result in the end of plantation slavery. But Martineau was wrong in timing, not in means. Realistically, once the slaves were formally freed, their life conditions didn't change much in most cases--sharecropping is nominally freer
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Published in 1863, this is a series of letters from Kemble to her friend E[lizabeth Sedgwick] describing her four months as the wife of a Georgian plantation owner, and going into considerable detail about the living conditions of the slaves. It is horrific stuff, an eloquent argument against slavery, published twenty-five years after the event in a deliberate attempt to undermine British sympathy for the Confederacy in the middle of the Civi ...more
Dec 25, 2015 Tracy rated it liked it
I appreciated my edition's introduction giving background information about Fanny Kemble, as well as addressing some of the journal's criticisms over the years.

An interesting perspective on coastal plantation life in the 1830s. At times harsh and emotion-provoking, there are other passages that are positively lyrical.
Jul 16, 2014 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


A good book but a slow read because of the difference in language and spelling between then and now. Slaves were treated horribly on the best of plantations.
May 12, 2008 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Eye-opening account of life on a plantation in Southern Georgia. The author is a plantation-owners wife who sympathizes with the slaves working on her husband's plantation and actually later in life fights for abolition. Not a fun or easy read, but the best representation of real life in the South I've ever experienced. Once required reading by schools - it should be still!
Paul Thillen
Dec 08, 2014 Paul Thillen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book everyone in America should read, not for style but for content. It gives priceless insight into the life of both slave and slave holder from the eyes of an English woman who married into a slaveholding family. Difficult to read at times due to subject matter but essential nonetheless.
Carrie Coy
Dec 26, 2013 Carrie Coy rated it really liked it
It was a privilege to read this journal. Kemble was a compassionate and prophetic woman. It took me many months to slog through this book, mainly because it was so depressing, but I am glad I did.
May 30, 2009 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Berry
Jan 30, 2012 Susan Berry rated it really liked it
Readable, particularly since the diary entries were written before the civil war. It gives new meaning to what slavery did to the South as well as the those under the lash. I read it for information on plantations, excluding the use of slaves.

Amanda Reimer
Feb 20, 2013 Amanda Reimer rated it did not like it
I didn't finish the book. The intro was medium interesting telling about the times and her reasons for writing, but once I actually started her letters, I felt like I already had read what I needed to know.
Mar 14, 2012 Deborah rated it it was amazing
perspicacious, pointed, prescient, and altogether pluperfect, as my late southern mother might have said had she had the opportunity to read and respond to this shimmering memoir.

Oct 14, 2007 Rachael rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Gina and Michelle
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought this an interesting read- a bit slow in some parts.

Gina and michelle should really enjoy this listing. Remember our road trip? :)
Dec 18, 2014 Jeremiah rated it really liked it
Well done but tedious reading. I came away w/a more hardened look towards how the southern slave owners treated their slaves.
Jan 12, 2009 Yvonne rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved the way she wrote, made it seem like I was right there on the plantation. Absolutely appalled how the slaves were treated.
Nov 14, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Brilliant first-hand writing of the evils of slavery by an English woman who married a southern plantation owner.
Jessica Jewett
Sep 29, 2014 Jessica Jewett rated it really liked it
Highly informative book but the language is tough.
Good primary source. Gives insight.
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Frances Anne Kemble (27 November 1809 - 15 January 1893), was a famous British actress and author in the early and mid nineteenth century.
More about Fanny Kemble...

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