Conflagration: How Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice

John A. Buehrens. Beacon, $32 (324p) ISBN 978-0-8070-2404-1
Unitarian Universalist minister Buehrens (Universalists and Unitarians in America) presents an illuminating collective biography of 35 key figures from the 19th-century American transcendentalist movement. Buehrens argues that, while transcendentalism is often encountered by Americans through the lens of literature, the lives of transcendentalists demonstrate that their beliefs led them to passionate activism intended to reform—even revolutionize—politics and society. Whether through projects such as the Brook Farm experiment in communal living, urban social ministries such as a refuge for women fleeing domestic abuse, or organized resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, transcendentalists labored to address the social problems of their day. However, Buehrens’s claim that transcendentalists “sparked” or gave “rise to nothing less than the start of a second American revolution” overreaches. Many of the causes transcendentalists took up (such as abolition) predate the rise of transcendentalism in 1830s New England. Also, the persistent focus on white male leadership (when figures such as Lewis Hayden and Margaret Fuller appear in the text, their contributions are often framed as successful primarily due to the encouragement and promotion of white men) adds a note of disappointment to an otherwise engaging narrative. Despite this, Buehrens’s take on Transcendental activism will appeal to scholars interested in exploring antebellum social justice concerns. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/13/2019
Release date: 01/14/2020
Genre: Religion
MP3 CD - 978-1-6620-0506-0
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-8070-0211-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-6620-0505-3
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