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Instruments in the Hands of God: William Lloyd Garrison, Secession and the Coming War

William Lloyd Garrison had spoken of disunion for decades. His weekly newspaper, The Liberator, was helmed with the slogan: "No Union With Slaveholders." From the 1840s, he had called the Constitution a "covenant with death" and even "an agreement with hell." He saw the Union as a "hollow mockery," a

Down With the Slaveholding Union! – The Calls for Disunion by the Abolitionist Garrison

Throughout pre-Civil War American history, one of the greatest fears common to both Northerners and Southerners was the fear that the Union would be dissolved. Disunion meant that the fathers of the country had failed, that the "new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men

Cheek By Jowl with the Abolitionists – Feminism’s Embrace of Racial Equality

The rights of women and of black Americans are often held in comparison. This was true as far back as the early 1800s. In the North, it was rare to find a woman who supported feminism yet did not also fight for the cause of abolitionism. While there were, of

‘They Choose a Name For Themselves’ – Surnames in Slavery and Freedom

In Western culture, our surnames are traditionally handed down along a patrimonial line. If Your father was a Smith, you are a Smith – if you are male, then your children will also be Smiths. While this was how it worked for most of European society, it was not allowed to cross over to the slaves held by that society. And yet, former slaves such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman all had surnames. In fact, nearly every slave freed, whether by pre-war emancipation or the Fourteenth Amendment, had one. But if slaves were not given surnames by their masters, how did this come about?

The Union is in Danger! – Fremont and Secession in the 1856 Election

The 1856 election pitted James Buchanan against John Fremont, the latter remembered as a radical abolitionist. From the Deep South came the warnings of disunion should the progressive Republican candidate win. However, at the time of the election, his personal politics on slavery went mostly unstated. In the build up

The Martyrdom of Elijah Lovejoy, Abolitionist and Constitutionalist

The 1837 murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy by a pro-slavery mob was long in coming. Rather than silencing the abolitionist movement, it had the opposite effect, solidifying it, and even radicalizing those who might have otherwise stayed silent. The murder’s reverberations rippled through the decades, even to the Civil War.

‘Not Shed a Tear’ – Emancipation Before the Fighting

The idea is often put forward that up until the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Civil War was fought by the United States to keep the Union together. It’s claimed that only after did it become a war to free the slaves. This, however, is not entirely accurate. From the start, especially to the Republican Party, the war was one to do both. It’s purpose was to reunite the nation, while its intended consequence was to abolish slavery. Nowhere is this made clearer than during the first summer of the war.

It’s important to recognize just how early this drive for emancipation began. Not only were there simple stirrings and rumblings, but actual votes were taken and actual laws were passed that actually freed people enslaved by Confederate masters – all before the first large battle took place.

The Choked Voice of a Race At Last Unloosed – The 1st South Carolina and the Emancipation Proclamation

It's often said that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed not a single slave. ((This inaccurate statement comes often from the pens of neo-Confederates and white supremacists. However, it was probably most famously propagated in the Ken Burn's Civil War documentary. But when that quote is further examined, it can be seen

Hands to Work, Hearts to God, Slaves to Freedom – Emancipation and the Shakers

American history is no stranger to intentional societies and religious communities. The United Society of Believers, more commonly known as the Shakers, was one of the earliest Anabaptist sects. Remembered mostly for their innovative furniture and complete celibacy, they stood out from typical Christianity, practicing equality of not only the

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