Stark Mad Abolitionists: Lawrence, Kansas, and the Battle over Slavery in the Civil War Era

Robert K. Sutton. Skyhorse, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5107-1649-0
Sutton, former chief historian of the National Park Service, chronicles the turbulent history of Lawrence, Kans., which was founded by the disciples of Amos Adams Lawrence, a Boston businessman turned abolitionist. Outraged by an 1854 court verdict that returned escaped slave Anthony Burns back to Southern bondage, Lawrence established the New England Emigrant Aid Company. His followers, dubbed “Jayhawkers,” included the abolitionists John Brown and Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Antislavery Jayhawkers moved to Kansas to fight “pro-slavery ruffians” in order to keep it from becoming a slave state. Those battles culminated in the infamous Lawrence Massacre of 1863, led by the Confederate guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill, and resulted in nearly 200 deaths and the destruction of 75 buildings. Sutton demythologizes the supposedly noble motives of Quantrill’s forces, concluding that “their motivations were not to rob the rich to give to the poor, but rather to perpetuate the institution of slavery and gain independence for the Confederacy during the war, and rob banks and trains after the war to enrich themselves.” That the outlaws Frank and Jesse James both joined Quantrill’s forces confirms that point. Sutton’s nuanced narrative reveals the extent of the abolitionists’ fight and shows how “Bleeding Kansas” earned its nickname. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 08/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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