Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, 1850–61

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 9:00 AM
Edward A (Hyatt)
Kellie C. Jackson , Columbia University
For enslaved and free African Americans, the abolition of slavery, by means of violence, was validated by the principles of the American and Haitian Revolutions. The impact and implications, particularly of Haiti, remain significant to the abolitionist movement in terms of how they developed their own ideas regarding the path to freedom. This study examines the abolitionist’s shift from a campaign of moral suasion to the impact of black abolitionists’ political resistance to American slavery. Research examining the resistance of African American reformers reveals violence as a political language for the oppressed. This dissertation examines political and social tensions preceding the Civil War and the conditions that led some black abolitionists to believe slavery might only be abolished by force. Black abolitionists attempted to make use of both violence and violent rhetoric as a legitimate tool for achieving emancipation and enfranchisement. The implications of this project are also important in understanding the 1850s as representation of the most intense political eras of American history. In addition, it examines how the influence of black abolitionists contributed to the violent atmosphere that hastened the onset of war. Above all, this research can explain how nonviolence did not, and perhaps, could not abolish slavery in the United States.
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