BLACK FREEDOM: The Nonviolent Abolitionists from 1830 Through the Civil War by Carleton Mabee
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BLACK FREEDOM: The Nonviolent Abolitionists from 1830 Through the Civil War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is an able and arresting contribution to the black-and-white history of America's race relations by a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor. Spurred by his own sympathy for nonviolence in the recent black protest movement to investigate the precedents among earlier advocates of Negro rights in America, Mabee has produced the story of Americans of both colors who, in the decades before the Civil War, tried to abolish slavery and racial discrimination by nonviolent means. He shapes his study around the three major schools of deliberately nonviolent abolitionists, the Quakers, the Garrisonians, and the ""Tappanites,"" but mostly it is the story of brave individuals sitting in, boycotting, refusing to cooperate with the government in war, withholding taxes, turning their backs upon unjust laws, and gladly accepting arrest, all of which goes to show that there's nothing new under the sun. But at that time even walking on the street with a person of the opposite color invited mob retaliation, which was not enough however to deter the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and other of the more daring crusaders, who also experimented with integrated schools and communes and were naturally the principal conductors on the Underground Railroad. Mabee's purpose is twofold: (a) to correct a passel of historical distortions that fostered the fiery, hotheaded abolitionist image--the failure to recognize nonviolence as a major element in the abolitionist movement, to pay heed to the abolitionists' direct action methods (as opposed to their conventional political agitation), and to adequately present the black role in the movement; (b) to warn that escalating violence on both sides can produce results as immediately disastrous and ultimately dubious as the Civil War. Of course Mabee is aware of the dilemmas of fighting racism--even with humility, wisdom, and nonviolence ""we still may largely fail, as the abolitionists did before us""--and he expects no ultimate answers from his historical examination. Nonetheless his book is a fine, compelling narrative of very general interest, and should be considered particularly by those who've taken the Nonviolent out of SNCC.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Macmillan