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Prophets Of Protest: Reconsidering The History Of American Abolitionism [Paperback]

Timothy Patrick McCarthy , John Stauffer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 22, 2006 1565848802 978-1565848801 1

The campaign to abolish slavery in the United States was the most powerful and effective social movement of the nineteenth century and has served as a recurring source of inspiration for every subsequent struggle against injustice. But the abolitionist story has traditionally focused on the evangelical impulses of white, male, middle-class reformers, obscuring the contributions of many African Americans, women, and others.

Prophets of Protest, the first collection of writings on abolitionism in more than a generation, draws on an immense new body of research in African American studies, literature, art history, film, law, women’s studies, and other disciplines. The book incorporates new thinking on such topics as the role of early black newspapers, antislavery poetry, and abolitionists in film and provides new perspectives on familiar figures such as Sojourner Truth, Louisa May Alcott, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown.

With contributions from the leading scholars in the field, Prophets of Protest is a long overdue update of one of the central reform movements in America’s history.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Perspectives on abolitionists have changed over the generations, reflecting the changes in perspective on race--and class and gender--in America. This collection of essays by historians explores how scholarship on abolitionism has expanded beyond portraits of influential white males to blacks and women, beyond the historically assigned beginnings with William Lloyd Garrison in 1831 back to the American Revolution, and beyond U.S. soil to Britain. Contributors cite in the abolitionist fervor the nascent black-nationalist and feminist movements and offer new perspectives on prominent figures, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, as well as reflections in popular culture, then and now. The book is organized into four parts: revisions, showing how histories of abolitionism have evolved; origins, examining how the movement began and its interracial features; revolutions, focusing on John Brown; and representations, the rhetorical and aesthetic strategies employed to win hearts and minds to the cause. Though written by leading historians, the collection is highly accessible to general readers and offers a fresh perspective on the most powerful social movement of the nineteenth century. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; 1 edition (May 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848801
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN STAUFFER is Chair of the History of American Civilization and Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Among the leading scholars of the Civil War era, antislavery, and interracial alliances, he is the author or editor of seven book and more than 50 articles. GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (2008), received the 2009 Iowa Author's Award, a Boston Writer's Club award, and was a Boston Globe and bestseller and a History Book Club featured selection. His other books include The Writings of James McCune Smith: Black Intellectual and Abolitionist (2006), which showcases the work of the foremost black intellectual in the nineteenth century; The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform (with Steven Mintz, 2006); Meteor of War: The John Brown Story (with Zoe Trodd); and The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (2002), a collective biography of black and white abolitionists that won four major awards, including the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, the Avery Craven Book Prize, and the Lincoln Prize runner-up.
John's essays have appeared in Time Magazine, Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Raritan, New York Sun, and 21st: The Journal of Contemporary Photography. He has appeared on national radio and television shows, including the Diane Rehm Show and Book TV with Susan Swain, and he has lectured widely throughout the United States and Europe.
In 2006-08 John served as a consultant for the filmmaker Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Dave, Big, Pleasantville, The Tale of Desperaux), who has completed a screenplay and will direct a film on Unionism and interracial alliances in Civil War Mississippi. John co-authored a history of the story, The State of Jones, with Sally Jenkins, which was published by Doubleday in July 2009.
John received his M.A. from Purdue University in 1993 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1999, when he began teaching at Harvard. He received tenure in 2004. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Deborah Cunningham, and their sons Erik Isaiah and Nicholas Daniel Stauffer.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Americans ended slavery March 8, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Prophets of Protest is a collection of essays by scholars who are also teachers and local historians. The editors, both young professors at Harvard, gathered the group and facilitated the research by asking each to critique and help the others.

This collection is very gratifying for me as an independent researcher and writer because my work has been to document the support of John Brown, abolitionist, by local African Americans in Virginia, both slave and free, in the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. Hannah N. Geffert of Shepherd College (now West Virginia) writes "Regional Black Involvement in the John Brown Raid" by showing the geography that made sense of John Brown's plans. The local slaves supported him. They did not cause him to fail. Hannah Geffert writes this evidence in standard academic grounding; she is kind enough to credit my thirty years of research on this topic in her byline.
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