Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism

Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Editor, John Stauffer, Editor
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Editor, John Stauffer, Editor . New Press $22.95 (382p) ISBN 978-1-56584-880-1
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Hardcover - 382 pages - 978-1-56584-992-1
Open Ebook - 417 pages - 978-1-59558-854-8
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This collection of historical essays takes another look into what editors McCarthy and Stauffer—who both teach at Harvard—call the "maligned" and "misunderstood" role of abolitionists. The book argues that abolitionism was far from a movement dictated by elite, white men in Boston. Examining everyone from Midwesterners to women to free blacks, the authors of these essays tell the lesser-known stories of the abolitionists of various periods and places who created "one of the most diverse social movements in American history." One essay discusses a first generation of black abolitionists that later inspired Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, including businessman James Forten, who opposed resettling free blacks in Liberia. On radical John Brown, Karl Gridley argues that Brown's violent movement in Kansas was a genuinely moral struggle, not a cynical land grab, as some past historians have written; Hannah Geffert writes that Brown, contrary to many histories, did work with blacks, because he didn't believe the universal idea that blacks were as "submissive as Uncle Tom." This is a dense book written by scholars, but it's a worthy read for anyone interested in an insightful re-examination of the battle for abolition. (May)

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