Creating the Culture of Reform in Antebellum America

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Antebellum America Reform Movements

Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: 15 January Home Garvey, T. Stock Image. Used Condition: Fine copy in fine dust jacket Hardcover. But the popular form of entertainment was more complicated than that. The performances revealed how Northerners were simultaneously fascinated by Black people and derisive of them. Onstage mocking of Blacks provided relief for working-class whites' anxieties over their own social status as hourly wage laborers.

At the same time that racial tensions were brewing, economic, technological, and social changes in antebellum American society lent a hand in speeding 'em up. The innovations of the mass printing press made possible the first popular newspapers and advertisements, especially in the cities, and fueled an explosion of printed material. From women's sentimental novels to classic works of literature to Rapid communication made possible by the telegraph facilitated the advent of mass spectator sports.

Today, we obsessively check the Lakers' game from Buffalo Wild Wings. On top of live stats, photography was a newfangled technology: the selfie of the antebellum period meant sending a self-portrait through the mail. People purchased pictures of their favorite celebrities, famous political leaders, and even erotic nudes. Photography also made possible the evidence of whipped and abused slaves, which folks could receive whether they wanted to or not. On one hand, the common white man felt empowered to voice his political opinions. Political machines churned out parties, organized huge torchlight parades, and transformed political participation and democracy into a spectacle.

And we had the highest voter turnouts in American history. On the other hand, Americans dealt with the rapidly changing conditions of the antebellum era by manifesting their hopes, their values, and their anxieties through their culture. And that included the good, the bad, and the ugly. The culture of the nineteenth century—much more than today—deemed honor to be a matter of life and death. If you were from an affluent family or were on the public stage, and you wanted to redeem your family name, your reputation, and the honor of your home against a public insult, you had to risk your life with swords or pistols.

Meanwhile in the United States, the movement lost steam during the s and s as the tensions between free and slave states escalated. One of the most prominent abolitionists of the era was William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. Garrison was militant in his call for immediate and complete emancipation as a moral imperative.

In the first issue of the Liberator, he made a public apology for ever advocating a gradual end to slavery and called for its immediate end. In every state, laws restricted the political and civil liberties of free African Americans. Many Americans found this radical notion of racial equality and the call to end these restrictive laws intimidating or even frightening.

Garrison refused to become more moderate in his demands, and The Liberator was published continuously for the next 35 years until the end of slavery in the United States. They were inspired in part by the success of British abolitionists. Abolitionists differed in their ideas about how to effectively bring about the end of slavery. By the end of the s, the Society had grown by leaps and bounds, with more than 1, chapters and almost , members.

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Bibliography | Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

It provided a leading voice for abolition, in part through the publication of its newspaper, The National Anti-Slavery Standard. In later years, the Society provided the founding impetus to the Liberty Party, a political party with an abolitionist platform. The Anti-Slavery Society was home to white and black abolitionists. Many prominent African American abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass were members of the Society.

Douglass was perhaps the most famous, influential, and vocal black abolitionist. Born into slavery in Maryland in , he escaped from slavery as a young man and spent the rest of his life devoting himself to the cause of freedom for all. Douglass was a skilled orator and a prolific writer. His many autobiographies, including Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , an American Slave, were instrumental in giving voice to the enslaved and black Americans and inspired generations of black leaders and reformers who called for freedom for all populations.

Although black and white abolitionists worked closely together in the movement and usually worked well together, African Americans experienced racial prejudice even within the abolitionist movement. Some of this came from a lack of understanding; in other cases, it was overt prejudice. White abolitionists tended to see free and slave as two polar opposites; black abolitionists knew that there were varying degrees of freedom and slavery.

Often, white abolitionists knowingly or unknowingly exploited stereotypes in their abolitionist efforts. For example, as Frederick Douglass rose to prominence as an orator in the abolitionist movement, he began speaking not only of his life as a slave, but also analyzing abolitionist policies. White abolitionists warned him that people would cease to believe that he had ever been enslaved if he sounded too educated and advised him to leave the complex analysis to the whites. Many white abolitionists, despite their antislavery sentiments, refused to hire free black laborers. Even anti-slavery and abolitionist groups refused to grant full rights to black members.

Eventually, the American Anti-Slavery Society itself split into factions over social issues.


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The abolitionist sentiment was also present in the South. An important example of the abolitionist voice in the South came from sisters from Charleston, South Carolina who had migrated north and become Quakers because of their abolitionism. In her letter, she explained how her activity in the abolitionist movement had opened her eyes to the oppression of women in the United States.

The sisters spoke before state legislations and were among the first women to speak in public forums before mixed sex groups.


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  7. The daughters of a prominent slave owner, they spoke of their personal knowledge and experience of the system. Angelina later married Theodore Dwight Weld, a prominent abolitionist preacher. She assisted in the research for his indictment of slavery, American Slavery as it is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.

    Women joined and actively participated in abolitionist organizations such as the Anti-Slavery Society; they sponsored events such as the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women.

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    The majority of the members of the Society favored including women in the governing structure of the organization; the more conservative members broke away from the Anti-Slave Society to form the American and Foreign Anti-Slave Society, which excluded women. There, the convention refused to seat the American female delegates. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two of the excluded delegates, united to form an organization that would speak for oppressed women.

    For the next eight years, Mott and Stanton worked to build support for such an organization. Three hundred delegates, both men and women, attended the meeting.

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    The first and foremost of these goals was achieving the right to vote as an inalienable right of full, republican citizenship. The most significant success was that by , more than a dozen states had granted women greater control over the wages they earned, and some even allowed women to sue husbands and fathers who tried to deprive them of their wages.

    Early nineteenth-century America was a time of reform.