From Publishers Weekly
Two of the four "passionate outsiders" (which would have been a better title) presented here were black: Frederick Douglass and doctor-scholar James McCune Smith. Two were white: John Brown and philanthropist-reformer Gerrit Smith. Brought together at the inaugural convention of Radical Abolitionists in June of 1855, they formed an interracial alliance of a kind that would not be seen again until the civil rights movement. Harvard history professor Stauffer offers an account of these four lives joined for a historical moment by "their vision of a sacred, sin-free, and pluralist society, as well as by their willingness to use violence to effect it." Stauffer shows how the four worked together on temperance and feminist issues, party building and other political work along with their antislavery activities, exploring the practical and ideological glue that held them together. A splendidly illustrated excursion into the American fascination with daguerreotype shows the four using that form to further their public image, an image the 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry and its federal arsenal destroyed, along with all their careful bridge-building. Brown's Harper's Ferry raid was discussed beforehand by all the men, but the actual act dimmed the revolutionary fervor of all who remained (Brown was executed) and probably made for the first, albeit unofficial, casualties of the Civil War. While the author's plain style doesn't include much imagistic amplification of events, this book offers an intense look at the mechanics of freedom. (Feb. 7)Forecast: The Unites States' violent internal conflicts over its values, via raids such as Brown's, can probably be better imagined now than at any time over the past 50 years at least. This book will have its main audience via campus libraries and syllabi, but anyone thinking historically about the U.S. road to fuller civil liberty will find it fascinating.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Black abolitionists Frederick Douglass and James McCune Smith and white abolitionists John Brown and Gerrit Smith proclaimed that America would realize equality and freedom when white Americans acquired a "spiritual heart that was a black heart that shared a humanity with all people and lacked the airs of superiority of a white heart." Historian Stauffer (Harvard Univ.) examines the lives of these four radical abolitionists, who linked their personal faith and Bible politics to their public behavior and forged strong bonds of friendship based on racial equality and interracial identities, envisioning an America free of racial, gender, and class distinctions. More than an engaging history of antislavery, this volume, with its abundant use of primary sources, restores James McCune Smith and Gerrit Smith to their historical positions as preeminent radical abolitionists and pioneer fighters against racism. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.