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Interview with the American historian on the occasion of the first French translation of the “Journal” by Fanny Kemble, abolitionist actress and wife of a slaveholder, on her stay in 1838 and 1839 on plantations in Georgia.
Catherine Clinton, American historian, specialist in American women and the South of the United States in the 19th century, teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She recently co-signed Confederate Statues and Memorialization (2019) on the past and its influence on current racial and social tensions in the United States. She is often asked to talk about the African-American activist Harriet Tubman, but she brings up the case of Fanny Kemble with pleasure, on whom she published a biography in 2000, Fanny Kemble’s Civil Wars (Simon & Schuster).
Why did you become interested in Fanny Kemble?
As a student at Harvard in the 1970s, I became interested in two subjects: women’s voices and slavery. This is how I was led to take an interest in Fanny Kemble and her Log written in the 1830s, but published in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. Born into a great dynasty of British theater actors, Fanny Kemble was 19 when she toured America where she married Pierce Butler. Conflicts with her husband, who was then the second largest slave owner in Georgia, led to her divorce and separation from her children. THE Diary of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation is therefore a very powerful document on a personal level, which has been widely circulated as an eyewitness account of slavery. He addresses his friend Elizabeth Sedgwick who belonged