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The problem about William Lloyd Garrison and Angela Grimkey-Weld is that she was still attached to the tap and wing officially because they're all well, and we're still working for them. He never broke with what I guess we could call the more conservative wing of the anti-slavery society. He never separated himself from them, and so it would be very difficult for her to openly declare that she thought Garrison was more correct than said the tap and so Charles Ryder, the people who were part of the tap and wing of the movement. So I think by, and then she's silenced in effect, about 39, she's sort of out of the whole picture in terms of, she doesn't. She writes a few little things locally wherever they are, but she's not an opinion maker in any way, shape or form, and get her well when he goes to Washington to advise the Republicans.
That's a clear statement about which side they've come down on. So I think if she felt a kindred spirit with William Lloyd Garrison, that it was constrained by the institutional affiliation that she did have. Okay, I never understood that. You mentioned that she was far more radical in advocating racial equality than many of the abolitionists. Did she walk the walk? Absolutely not absolutely, walk the walk of racial equality. In her old age, she, after the Civil War, I know we're not going to do the Natu story with these. Oh, we're not. So. But again, I'm talking earlier on, was she, because there was some resentment among black abolitionists of the condescensionist?
Yes. Here would be a good way to see how Angelina enacted her sense of racial equality. When she leaves the Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia, when she attends it for the very last time, the Quaker Meeting House was segregated. It had black benches for black members and benches for white members. And Angelina comes into the meeting and she sits on the black bench to very clearly make the point that she, among the many reasons, she's formally leaving, is their attitude toward black equality. Thank you. What did Pennsylvania Hall represent to the abolitionist? The abolitionists had built their own meeting hall, their own speaking hall in Philadelphia.
And the women abolitionists were holding the Women's Anti-Slavery Society, was holding a meeting there. I think after it was completed, and Angelina and Sarah, and Lucretia Mott, the leaders of the movement are on the stage. And as they're speaking, as they're holding their meeting, they begin to hear noise outside and the noise grows and grows and grows. They realize there's a mob gathering outside because inside the hall are black women and white women together. And then they begin to see the rocks hitting the windows. And they realize that they're in danger. And Angelina gives what is really one of the last speeches she's going to give.
And she says, what are these rocks? What is this mob? What danger can they really be? Our cause is just they can't overthrow the rightness of our cause. We don't need to be afraid of them. Our beliefs, our morality will go on no matter what they do to us in this hall. It's bigger than them. It's bigger than us. It's a really moving and stunning statement that suggests her absolute belief that good will triumph over evil. And then they organize the women inside to leave the hall together. And they march out of black women and white women holding hands. Not just as a symbol of racial equality, but to protect the black women.
They don't want the black women to go out as a group because they're afraid they will be hurt. And they leave the hall. And as soon as they've exited, the crowd burns the hall to the ground. And Angelina reports with great sadness that the men who should have been fighting the fire stand there watching it burn with a look of satisfaction on their face. And so it's one of the most dramatic moments in anti-anti-slavery protests because in fact it's against women. And it's against women who are racially mixed. That is black and white women, even though there are no men in sight. And the hall is burned down. And I think that that's another thing that contributes to Angelina really feeling she just can't keep fighting personally anymore. She's just worn out.
We think two years, which is her whole career, shouldn't have worn someone out. But really constant criticism, constant travel, constantly being attacked in the press. It really wore on her. And the burning of the hall is sort of the last straw for her. And she has just gotten married. She, she and Thierdo I get married. And the next day, they don't go on a honeymoon. The next day she is at this meeting in Pennsylvania Hall and the hall is burnt down and she realizes she could have been killed. And so it's the end of her public career. Was it the last public speech? It is her last public speech. As I said, in her little locality, wherever they've gone to live, they live in New Jersey, they live in Massachusetts.
They move around starting these schools and being involved in these utopian communities. And in her little community on the eve of the war and during the war, she writes little things for the local women. But she never really speaks in public. They finally invite her back to speak at a women's rights convention. She becomes a participant in the women's movement itself. And she does serve as an officer. But she's never again going to really give a public speech after the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. I wonder if you could just very quickly tell us what happened in the years after Pennsylvania Hall? Angelina follows her husband, teaches in his schools, has several children, none of whom, by the way, want to be involved in any way, shape or form with reform movements.
She's not a happy person. We would say today, probably clinically depressed, really unhappy with this role of being on the sidelines of a moral crusade, very disturbed by the civil war and the bloodshed of the civil war. How did she, would you have shown us before, how did she respond to that, like the war was she? She was, Angelina finally decided that war was necessary. But she was by no means pleased that it had come to that. She decried the bloodshed and she decried the cruelties of war. And if it were not for the fact that Lincoln transforms the war in 63 from being a war about preserving the union to being a war about ending slavery, that certainly gives her
heart and she believes that it's a necessary step. But she's not a hawk by any means. I didn't ask you, but before I started to teach, do you know what happened to know where they were on January 1st and then you got to put that down? I'm sure I did in the book, but I don't remember anymore. I'm two books past that. I don't know. 16th grade. They wind up in Massachusetts. I mean, how do they celebrate in Massachusetts? Oh, oh, that I don't know. But I don't know. How would you summarize her impact on the movement? When Angelina died, the remaining abolitionists who had been part of this movement came to her funeral among them, Abby Kelly, that is the next generation of women who took over
Torch Barras for what she believed in. That is both women's rights and the end of slavery and racial equality. And they sang her praises and it's clear it was not empty funeral oration. But they believed that she had been among the most radical of their group, a sort of path breaking, both for women, a model for women like Abby Kelly, and a model for what reconstruction ought to have been, which by the time she dies, it's clear. It will not do what she wanted. And I think, and I don't think this is an exaggeration, William Lloyd Garrison not with standing,
I think Angelina Grimke-Weld and Frederick Douglass are the two greatest abolitionists of the era. It seems to me that having thrown over the social customs of Charlottes and she was just more and more rebellious than anyone else, you know, Douglass, of course, who was dressed into it. Yes, Frederick Douglass, in a sense, had no choice, I mean, he could have stayed to slay, and it took enormous bravery for him to leave slavery. But he had nothing to live for there. Angelina had all the opportunities to lead a comfortable, luxurious, safe life in a community that would have been warm and friendly to her, no one would have criticized her, and yet
she picks herself up. She leaves home, she never sees her home again. She attempted to say boldly goes when no one has gone before. I mean, in that sense, she challenges her own movement to be more radical. She abandons the Quakers because they won't live up to what she believes their claim of egalitarianism is. She really never lets go of doing what is morally right. But she's not the same know-it-all obnoxious girl she was when she was younger. Now she's genuinely a humanist. She's genuinely a person that I think all of us could admire with great empathy for people who suffer. And great sensitivity to the inequalities, unnecessary inequalities in society. One of her last acts is to march with other women to vote for a president in a separate ballot
box that they know will not be counted and won't matter, but do the right thing. She does it as a very elderly woman. This is what we ought to do. And I'm still willing to make my position known about this. I think she's a remarkable person. If she wasn't the most radical person in the movement in terms of the tactics she was prepared to employ because any movement includes job-grounds. Yes, yes. No, you're right. She was, in a sense, especially when you consider the heriturgic trees only a few years long in terms of her moral compass, that there are moral beliefs that her philosophy that she travels in that distance, that she's against the most rebellious, most radical.
Yes. And I mean, I would really not to pick hairs about, split hairs about John Brown. I think light garrison, she really believed if you explained clearly why this was morally right. She was not willing to give up on people finally doing the right thing. I mean, that letter to her sisters in South Carolina and the letter to African-American abolitionists women who are complaining, who are rightly complaining that they're not being treated well by the movement, not being too, she says, be patient with this. We can't change overnight, but we know that prejudice against you is wrong. Give us credit for having come as far as we have. And don't give up on us, we're going to get better about this racial equality question. And so I think that it was, though she was stubborn and radical and gutsy, she was also
rather quickly came to believe that the cause she stood for would eventually win, that she didn't have to do anything that violated the rights of other people. She's not going to go kill anybody. She's not going to lead a rebellion. She would not have even advocated slaves rising up and killing their masters. She really thought there had to be a way to do this that honored Christian beliefs. Okay. Just give me one second to talk to you, I'll just talk to you. Sure. Sure. Are you rolling? I just really like how you talk about her and be it or writing letters back and forth and be it or listening to his thoughts. And I was wondering if you could listen to her specific follow-up. Oh, Angelina says that she is prideful, that she doesn't know enough as she ought to know about slavery, that she hasn't read enough, that she can be stubborn, basically she says
back to him the things he's accused her of in a very negative way. And she acknowledges that her faults are less behavioral and more attitudinal. He's the one who writes, I don't shave every morning or I don't bathe every morning or I don't. He's writing about the nitty gritty of his life and she's writing back about her attitude. Sometimes she's impatient with people. She doesn't, she's not patient enough with her sister. She sometimes doesn't want to go out and speak. She's actually before every talk that she gives Angelina is terribly, has terrible stage fright and she gets very tight in her stomach and she is afraid to go out and the only reason
she says she goes out is she can feel Christ by her side telling her that this is the right things. So she says sometimes I don't speak eloquently enough. So those are the issues that she describes about herself. They're much more general or much more abstract than his complaints about himself. And in fact, he was a weirder person than her. He was infinitely more eccentric than Angelina was. Angelina was raised as a gentile female and she retains a lot of that in her behavior. She's very modest in her dress. She's very respectful of people. She's a loose cannon all the time. And so he had much more to report about his failings than she did.
That was great. And the only other thing was that I liked how you talked about her upbringing and the sleep standing behind each person. And I wondered if you had any other examples of her. Because she were Angelina recounts living near the whipping house, slave masters in Charleston if their slaves were disobedient or misbehaved or stole something or some infraction of the rules would not whip their slaves themselves. They would send them to a whipping house where they pay to have someone punish their slaves. And Angelina writes about hearing the cries from the whipping house and realizing that bodily harm was being done to young children and to women and to men for the smallest infraction. So she talks about this, but I'm not sure when she lived in South Carolina.
This was disturbing to her as when she recollects it when she's giving talks. Because I'm really convinced that when she's a younger person in South Carolina, slavery is a cause more than it's about human beings. But she certainly remembers these things that she heard the cries of slaves being whipped. She lived in a house where virtually everything was done for them by a slave. There was no physical activity even passing the salt and pepper shaker that the members of her family had to engage in. Yes, virtually everything was done by slaves. If you wanted a book, your slave brought it to you.
If you wanted a piece of clothing, you were dressed in undressed by a slave which of course for women was often virtually necessary given all the apparatus that they wore. So boots were taken off if you were a man by a slave. There was nothing that you had to do that there wasn't a servant, a household servant who took care of it for you. When you think about it, I think most modern people would find this maddening that you couldn't just reach over and do something, but it was part of an elaborate racial etiquette about what activities your slave did and what you did. Oh, yes, I forgot about that. Good tone for Carol Baker.
Thank you.
American Experience
The Abolitionists
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Interview with Carol Berkin, part 3 of 3
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor American Colonial and Revolutionary History; Women's History, Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Baruch College. Her publications include: Civil War Wives: The Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant (2009).
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, abolition
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Chicago: “American Experience; The Abolitionists; Interview with Carol Berkin, part 3 of 3,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “American Experience; The Abolitionists; Interview with Carol Berkin, part 3 of 3.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: American Experience; The Abolitionists; Interview with Carol Berkin, part 3 of 3. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from