thumbnail of Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; 
     Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies,
    Amherst College. 4 of 4
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it's both so it is david orr is appeal which the publishers of eighteen twenty nine is is it isn't a classic example of a black abolitionist taking the two great traditions that black abolitionist relied upon one which was the natural rights tradition of the american revolution and the other of which was a kind of biblical conception of history a kind of apocalyptic conception of history and what walker wrote an eighteen twenty nine was a seventy five page pamphlet that argued many things not the least of which was now his direct appeal to southern slaves to rise up attacked their soil that their owners and strike for their own freedom but what's most
interesting about it is that walker made himself self appointed a literary liberate are of his own people and what he does in this document as he appropriates thomas jefferson's declaration of independence at the same time he appropriates the old testament tradition of of this apocalyptic view of history where god can enter history intervened on behalf of his people the mix of that became argue that the most radical abolitionist document published before the civil war partly because it has this direct appeal for insurrection among slaves and because it is such a sport shane sure
well it is an old testament liberation theology mixed with the natural rights tradition of the declaration of independence in particular what he draws from the declaration of independence is jettisoned language about the right of revolution and from the old testament from the bible what he particular draws he draws upon moments in the bible where god enters history on behalf of his people and overturns the society or dead david walker's appeal in a literary form is a great example of an american jeremiah it's a warning to the people that if they don't change their ways as a warning to the nation but of the nation doesn't change its ways and slavery got one or history and and and and destroyers as he says at one point and i came and god willing history of his people and reclamation
what's most interesting about walker's use of the declaration of independence is the demonstration many ways what would one scholar once called him sir what's most interesting about walker's use of the declaration of independence is it demonstrates that the black abolitionist even early in the story was a still the eighteen twenty to black abolitionist that document was never to be de revolutionize the black abolitionist the declaration of independence and the american revolution was a source of a kind of founding creeds of their own movement i'm what what walker doesn't the declaration of independence as he says that blacks are part of the language of jefferson's first principles of the document especially the principal of the right it's a revolution they didn't
require as that is on this as well david walker got the attention of the south and at least for some of the legislatures they hold they hold special sessions and votes to to censor the document i'm a number of copies of walker's appeal were filed in savannah georgia apparently walker sold copies of his appeal into the cooling that he sought to sailors in his shop in his in his store in boston and i believe the figure is it about sixty copies of walker's appeal were found in savannah georgia and when that occurred the document was condemned and and a price was put on david walker is head i am what walker's appeal is evidence
is that abolitionists documents like this could get the attention of the south could inspire a kind of reaction and it is often of these reactions to abolitionists literature that the abolition movement itself begins to radicalize because one abolitionist begin to realize the kind of intransigence a kind of resistance they're up against in the south that's when they begin to realize they're in for the long haul this is his war boy i'm lloyd garrison was the real thing in the sense that he was a professional radical a garrison first published his newspaper
liberation of the longest standing and that's where a newspaper in the nineteenth century and eighteen thirty one in boston garrison actually cut his teeth as an abolitionist though in baltimore or in the south working benjamin monday and an opposing the colonization garrison was also one of the few white abolitionists who shouldered up to david walker actually publish parts of the surrealist parts of walker's appeal in the literature and eighteen thirty one after workers birth but garrison becomes in some ways a kind of combination of a radical abolitionist and almost an anarchist some of his doctrines like his doctrine of never join political parties of urging his fellow abolitionist to none vote to not participate in the american republic because in garrison's view the american constitution was a covenant with death because it supported slavery
many of these these these that much of this doctrine are approached by dearest and it was difficult at times for other abolitionists to file a particular white people in black abolitionist because to many black abolitionist the emergencies that airlines were worried were daily affairs they had to become in some ways more practical abolitionists but what they had in gerritsen was a voice and a newspaper that was challenging the united states like nothing ever had before and gerritsen developed a very important following among the free black population he's a poet well one of the dearest doctors is what i call non resistance he was a pacifist he had roots in quakerism
and garrison believed as hard it is sometimes for us in the twentieth century to fully understand this kind of outlook garrison believe that through moral suasion as it was called at the time by an onslaught of persuasion but southerners over time could be convinced of the cinema the slaveholding it was in many ways the project of the radical abolition movement of the eighteenth thirties led principle in a way my dearest him to advance this idea of slaveholding is seen it comes out of the evangelical tradition that comes out of the second great awakening it comes out of this christian evangelical notion that if you can convert individuals to salvation you can also convert whole societies the painter
there's this attracted to women there isn't even attracted to this pacifist persuasion themselves ruler charles ramon in boston and others that they're attracted to this pacifist outlook because they are themselves deeply imbued with his evangelical traditional christianity but over time black abolitionist living in northern city is living again with the daily emergencies of the lives of fugitive slaves finding increasingly difficult to abide by a kind of doctrinaire approach to anti slavery which carousel name isn't represented in many ways to be a garrison was to tow the line and four or five of these principles that garrison advance not the least of which was non resistance and pacifism meeting thirties and ended the eighteen forty years it has a broad broad following but by the middle of the eighteenth for his dad black side of the abolition movement is
beginning to change because i am they simply have no choice in years is that is a low note what black ocean it's radiating forty shared many things that showed the same platforms many of the same ideals and many of the same struggles and experiences but the lives and experiences of black abolitionists were also quite different they couldn't afford the kind of debates over abstraction carousel means often fell into whether they were abiding by the doctrine and resistance are abiding by the doctrine of nonvoting became increasingly irrelevant to black abolitionist whose lives were driven every day by the emergency zone of the fugitive slave crisis of
building schools of trying to create orphanages of trying to get land simply dealing with the dealing because of living in the northern city of living in a free black communities in northern cities essentially and jim crow world social in the eighteen forty a black abolitionist becomes as much a community building organization as it is an anti slavery movement black abolitionist always had to do with both sides of this equation which was building lives for free blacks and their families in the north at the same time trying to come up with a reasonable strategies to attack slavery in the south and doing both of those at the same time he has
right so oh boy at thirty a one philadelphia hall was burned in philadelphia has over attack abolitionist meeting and abolitionists site the organ thank you one thought pennsylvania hall and sort of his brand over attack and abolitionists me an abolitionist site the organized anti slavery movement both in terms of organizations and with newspapers and sala is now seventy eight years old across the north if it's been around long enough it's been involved in petition campaigns by now in congress it's been around long enough
to stimulate a popular reaction what occurs by eighteen thirty six through eighteen thirty eight is increasingly anti abolitionist mob violence the case of philadelphia is one of the best examples but it's also the time and harrison was attacked in boston and dragged through the streets one other abolitionists were attacked and trains and thrown off a railroad cars and perhaps earl woman most famous examples is when alija love jordan and an abolitionist a normal man i was attacked and assassinated and became in effect the first great martyr of the anti slavery movement but this does moment in the history of abolitionism is important because it demonstrates that the anti slavery movement by the late eighteen thirties had on the perception of many many northern whites become a true threat to the social order abolitionists were now seen by many ways as radicals were there to create
disorder they're going to create a disorder because they were bad for business they were going to you were going to ruin the prosperity out in the mall malloy and the kind of trade that merchants were engaged in on the mississippi river and across the river was with missouri they were bringing women to the platform having women speak in public which was a brand new affair and the threat to be order as people understood it and bread most notably they brought black abolitionists and the platforms speaking in public telling their own stories in their own voices all of this time anyway lawyers was a threat to the social order as they understood it it is this has
been it's a very anti abolitionist violence is a very interesting turning point for the abolitionists themselves black and white because they now realize that only up against the deep southern intransigence and in an increasingly organized defense of slavery from the south they been reading and hearing that since the eighteen twenty now what they realize is they are faced with violent reaction to that movement within their own northern communities most interesting but the facts that enter abortion violence head on abolitionists is that it made abolitionism now also cause of civil wright's it may free speech of course it made their very right to petition congress to speak in public to publish the newspapers tonight they're printing presses destroyed a major issue and other words it gave them know a way to appeal to their own constitutional
liberties as abolitionists and it is yet another factor in an increasing radicalization of the movement that we see happening by the late eighteenth or eliminating forties and also point out that as is true of most reform movements in american history when moments like this encounter serious reaction it causes the leaders of those moments to increasingly organize only won a moment like this realizes the reaction is up against does it begin to define what it's all about well look at those violent also begins to force abolitionist like garrison and his followers who have heretofore been denouncing organized politics into increasingly more political behavior even though they're reluctant to get involved
in politics increasingly have to get involved in public affairs and politics because that's where they're being attacked this is what it is on black skin of the manson lived in in black communities in philadelphia or boston new york or out west even in cincinnati they found themselves living in in largely all black enclaves the founders of living in communities where they created their own churches where they struggled to create their own schools where they occasionally as in new york would create orphanages where they also attended that they tried to create a mutual relief associations
to try to provide people with insurance policies that the ability to buy land if they want to move out to rural areas but most importantly i think over time what black communities in the north face was a prop most basic physical security especially as the fugitive slave crisis and the fugitive slave problem heats up in the eighteen forties and after eighteen fifty to be black in a northern community was to live in a situation of physical insecurity fb one question of the novel living in cities such as philadelphia new york boston or even out west in cincinnati they found themselves living largely an all black and clear increasingly though what they encounter is a society that we would later call a jim crow society was a society of a very strict racial segregation
they found they were living in communities now the median emergency isn't providing schools for themselves and building their own churches and even creating occasionally orphanages of trying to create insurance companies or mutual aid society is to help each other by land that they want to move up to rural communities or ever tried to travel particularly tried to get employment in jobs they found themselves living in a racist world northern society in jacksonian america as we so often called was a society where democracy was spreading more widely the right to vote was spreading more widely but it was a white man's democracy a lot of the most famous fugitive slaves who come north and live in northern communities were in some way a shock because they had come to the land of canaan and had come to the free north and they found themselves now living with the new and in some ways more insidious more cunning kind of racism in the north and they had encountered even on the plantations in the south toss well
one of the hardest things blacks faced and then an antebellum northern cities was employment or finding jobs that were opened to black people jobs or closed off to them they might get jobs as caulk reason the ports they might get jobs and railroads they might get dealing employment in towns and cities but by and large blacks began to have to organize the debate began to organize their own economic development association had to try to create jobs aren't what they also found themselves doing increasingly was also organizing for their own physical security great example that is david ruggles and the vigilance society of new york and other vigilance aside has created a northern city news organizations not only to protect and harbor fugitive slaves with these organizations designed in part to protect the physical security other communities have
one of the things that black communities and organize in northern cities will were what were called vigilance committees david ruggles a new york city creator probably the most prominent of these organizations as stan submit to protect and harbor fugitive slaves but they really became organizations of community security organizations through a variety of means the tried to protect the physical security of black communities in northern cities which were always under the threat of of white hostility even white violence one dealer had that there were that the critically after eighteen fifty they're under the threat of slave catchers because of new fugitive slave act of eighteen fifty families vigilance committees were many ways the original version of what we would later call the underground railroad
sometimes vigilance committees were and they certainly were armed after eighteen fifty after the passage of the fugitive slave act black and some white abolitionists across the north a big and on themselves in self defense and self protection and indeed for backing and slave catchers and many famous examples lulu the way what do a double issue has often had different agendas by the eighteen forties and certainly a team fifty one of the greatest frustrations that many were publishers face was the racism is sometimes experience from a fellow white abolitionists and in many cases you know within the garrison a moment in particular the role of the black speaker or the black rider or the black abolitionist was
in some ways prescribe there's a famous case of frederick douglass his relationship with the gear son is gay sun is one of douglas' to simply get up and tell his story to tell his narrative on the platform they didn't want him to speak above northern racism out to take on the whole picture of the anti slavery movement as much as he did and i had a lot to do with why douglas eventually broke with the gasoline what was that well it was a powerful white abolitionists as well because in many ways what they had discovered with black speakers is the authentic black voice and they were using at all that they could weather was douglas order was henry garnet or whether was others but for black abolitionist it became very often simply a case of well the demand for recognition demand for mutual
respect and he was also especially frustrating to block abortions to deals sometimes with the kinds of of abstract debates that abolitionists would have the white abolitionists would have over doctrine and increasingly in the eighteen fifties black abolitionist didn't have time to do two to struggle over a doctrinaire questions of of tactics and strategy there were by the eighteen fifties about the business of building their own commission building their own communities and trying to organize real strategies against slavery in the south as well but like couldn't one of many white abolitionists had certain expectations of what black abolitionist were to work to provide order
perform within this movement very often black abolitionist a different very different perceptions of what their role ought to be so there was a struggle among white and black abolitionist about just what the proper role of a black militias was in this movement it's big his voice what has really great transition that occurs and black abolitionist in the eighteen forty years because now you've got a transmission of generations the earlier generation of black evolution has tended to be northern born
they tended to be diverse audience they tended to view organizers of newspapers and communities are increasingly in the eighteen forty as the black abolitionist the prominence of fugitive slaves are people born in slavery in the south like frederick douglass like henry highland garnet many others are who is now who whose anti slavery training if you will was on southern plantations and they have a very different perspective of a very different experience there less patient with with a doctrine and they are now about the business of the emergencies of black life in the north and attacking slavery in meaningful ways and sell this transition no is also driven by the writing of the slave narratives frederick douglass american eighteen forty five is perhaps the most famous but there are many others as josiah hansen's narrative the solemn northrop's narrative and eventually gary jacobson are given the late eighteen fifties these stories of the fugitive slaves of their own autobiographies in their own
voices in many ways became the most important kind of anti slavery literature and in many ways the slave narratives in the eighteen forty is carved out a readership that harriet beecher stowe the unexploited so brilliantly with uncle tom's cabin a meeting fifty two the slave narratives themselves serb many functions they were escape stories which american readers load that that there were stories of from slavery to freedom they were classic american tales in that they were essential narrative stories it's of people rising out of the depths of something for something higher probably the most important function of narrative served for black abolitionism black abolitionist visited he gave them their own authentic voice gave them away now to declare their own freedom
it's big will the slave narratives in the forties and fifties garnered a huge northern readership frederick douglass as an aerosol thirty thousand copies in the first five years after its publication and what's not happening in many ways is a white northern readers are seeing slavery through the eyes of former slaves that are there understanding slavery now through the the real stories of former slaves in the south of the white southerners are now beginning to react other being to react to the store as a fugitive slaves themselves and they will especially react to harriet beecher stowe the uncle tom's cabin after it exploded the american readership and eighteen fifty to infect between at fifty two in the civil war white southerners would write one
counter uncle tom novel after another trying to show to answer or to counter some of the basic plot lines and stores of uncle tom's cabin what the white south was especially upset about was that the detection both in the slave narratives and an uncle tom's cabin of owners like simon legree the famous character that her beecher stowe created they just could not abide allowing them north to believe the sleepovers or like simon legree of course in the slave narratives douglas's narrative than others oh a white northern readership had been introduced to a variety of simon agrees by the real names long before they ever and uncle tom's cabin it's b that
order a slave narratives were in some ways an argument with americans they were an argument with a system of slavery and in some cases they were even personal argument by former slaves with their own former masters frederick douglass wrote a famous letter making forty eight to his old master and anthony which was a direct challenge to his own former master and he published the letter publicly these were always now that a former slave could not only publish his own story too to to release his own identity to sort of gain a kind of a order over the chaos of his or her own life as a way not to directly challenge the people who own them out with a free voice from a free place and this sense it is one of the most direct kinds of challenges that probably ever occurred in this
long north south the dialogue that we have in the thirty years before the civil war customers we were very close the fugitive slave law as part of accommodating fifty great states for the subs are the free solo impulse in american politics but an already been burned
and shot if you like about the mexican war and what's at stake in this for the south is their belief that a condemnation of slavery anywhere was to condemn it everywhere now the fugitive slave law and eighteen fifty says to the south not anomalies slavery legal but it sets up a federal judicial system now for the retrieval of any slave who escaped and freeze so it sets up a whole apparatus of adjudication it right into the constitution in effect the right of slave ownership and the return of slaves to their rightful owners it it now made the federal government in northern says northern citizens of complicity is in the process of retrieving and retaining slaves back to their masters it also has great stakes for northerners our white northerners because it is the first time really in the lives of many white northerners that the slavery issue of the slavery problem kind of comes
home to their neighborhoods and comes home to their community is it means now to harbor a few years later and to be aware of a fugitive slaves to be committing a felony in him in many ways on a white northerners were converted converted to become free so cause i'm in a moderate anti slavery impulse buy this fugitive slave act because it brought home the problem of slavery into northern communities sure i can come back to that it's been
so it was important for many reasons it becomes in some ways a measure of just how important is this problem of the escape of fugitive slaves had become so that hasn't been demanding for years some increased federal authority in the retrieval of fugitive slaves it's also interesting to a legal turning point in american history because we never had there been such a federal judicial system set up to adjudicate a crime before in american history has this alleged now crime of being a fugitive slave his slave law it required at every state to have special magistrates to have to adjudicate fugitive slave cases and those magistrate says the law dictated would be paid ten dollars for every few years later they return to their owners and five dollars for every allegedly this way that they acquitted a lot of lawyers look at this and i said wait a minute this law denies the
right of trial by jury it if it sets up a clearly unfair system in the adjudication that for a lot of northerners is simply couldn't understand illegally how this thing could be constitutional from the beginning and yet it was passed and was passed of course because it was part of a much broader political compromise to try to contain this problem of the expansion of slavery into the west and if you like the expansion of fugitive slaves end of the month it is why was because of those shows
but as nebraska church or was all the vast land left of the louisiana purchase it was a vast area of the west in the northwest what's at stake in the kansas nebraska act in eighteen fifty four is whether that territory would now be subtle a slave territory were freed territory the kansas nebraska act as past and written by stephen douglas in the us senate the spring of eighty fifty four not only said that this part of the west would be subtle on the basis of popular sovereignty which was the idea of holding a referendum and letting the people who settle their territory simply decide whether libby's label free but southerners put stephen douglas's feet to the fire his fellow southern democrats put that was his feet to the fire and they demanded an explicit repeal of the old missouri compromise line thirty six thirty pro across the continent which said from eighteen twenty on the slavery could never exist north of that line not to a lot of northerners their
conception of the future of the west was held together by this geographical guarantee that slavery could never exist above the thirty six thirty per hour the kansas nebraska act nineteen fifty four the race is that thirty four year old fowl which have the sanction of the constitution it now meant but the settlement of this vast territory of the west and the north west was opened slavery it was open to the possibility of three four five six eight new slave states what they put at risk was the conception of america's future as a place of free labor a place where the small man the small farmer the immigrant could take his family west get land free or cheaply and provide a future a subsistence future at first but the more prosperous future beyond that for his family what what the kansas nebraska act stimulate it was the
biggest political reaction really in american history across the norms in it wasn't as much a reaction against slavery itself as it was a reaction among white northern borders now defending their conception of america's future there's a few wire so which is the racial we we we were just we were going to fall well increasingly in the eighteen fifties white southerners are threatened now by what in the north has been called the freeze so impulsive and a political party in at forty eight called the free soil party and what that was rooted in what we tend to call free free labor of ideology but what that is is a cluster of ideas it's the belief and republicans it's the belief in in every individual man's mobility
to move west and to get a new lance it states the belief in in the in the in the immigrant's ability to achieve better future for his children it it's the belief that unless you leave the west freak for white man's mobility that the consent the early nineteenth century the early nineteenth century conception of the american dream is put at risk it's incredible and i want the blacks in this notion of free labor at odds you're keeping the west frieze soil is much less the issue and whether slavery actually will exist in the west is slavery exists in the west has only reinforced in the south in as reinforcements south thought bam bam the lives of blacks in the north to be just that much less secure
on the other hand the reaction to the to the kansas nebraska act in the birth of the republican party the birth of this new anti slavery political coalition was a source of real hope to northern blacks and protected a black abolitionist who were who were responsible for thinking about anti slavery strategies what they began to see now black abolitionist so was a new political coalition forming in the north that truly could threaten the future of slavery and to the extent that the republican party in this new political coalition could threaten the future of slavery black abolitionists were interested in it they knew that the republican party are eventually the party of abraham lincoln was not led by genuine abolitionist though abolitionists found a home and they knew that this party really stood largely only for stopping the expansion of slavery but the threat to slavery in the west was the hope of a threat slavery in the south
oh shame all right well a freeze is very beginning was fraught with racism david willman author of the will improvise on aging forty six in the midst of the mexican war said that stopping expansion of slavery in the west it was to preserve it for a white man's freedom there is no question that that racism itself was one of the roots of the free so moment was keeping the west freak for it for the mobility of movement of white settlers and you know they were black northerners now had to face was the difficult struggle the difficult choice of trying to find a home in a new kind of political movement which was anti slavery what is to stop the spread of slavery in the west at the same time they had to deal with all of those in
polls that was born essentially from a kind of jacksonian hero white man's liberty to move west and on the west what was in it for blacks and what they refused to ever let the republican party forget was that nevertheless to put slavery on a course of ultimate extinction as lincoln said a meeting fifty eight was not only just to black people but that threaten the south and that would that which could threaten the south was something that blacks now have defined in a very difficult way to fight only and it interested in fact one of the things about one of them makes life in the eighteen fifty so desperate for blacks can be done even the most revolutionary changes arguably in the history of american race relations most black leaders in the north
are collapsed into a kind of despair by the mid and late eighteen fifties because they saw a future now that was arguing about white man's liberty in the west that was arguing about stopping the spread of slavery and especially in the wake of the dred scott decision they found themselves living in a land that said they have no rights and to know its competitors well the significance of the dred scott decision is that it comes in the wake of bleeding kansas it comes three years after the kansas nebraska act the country is now struggled for three years to understand the implications of popular sovereignty in the west and how old the west would be so free or slave and now this case of old dred scott finally gets to the supreme court and the supreme court says not only to dred scott not have the right to consume a federal court because it's blackened citizen there goes one step further goes for a
much broader decision and chief justice tani words blacks had no rights which whites had to recognize in the wake of the dred scott decision spring of eighteen fifty seven to be black in america was to live in the land of the dred scott decision which in effect said you have no future in america so for the next three just three and a half years down to the outbreak of the civil war and we must remember nobody knew that war was coming when i was coming to be black in america in the late eighteen fifties was to live in a land that said you didn't have a future what kind of reaction well in the north legislatures and republican politicians respond to the dred scott decision by questioning whether this was a supreme court decision that they should abide by one of the issues that was clearly at stake in the lincoln douglas debates douglas
lincoln's debates stephen douglas anomaly was indeed whether the dred scott decision was something republicans would adhere to them would live up to would even try to enforce and then steve and i was pressed lincoln and this of course in lincoln in effect ultimately said that the republican party would remain hostile to the dred scott decision politically black pepper a winner will see a black reactions of brits gunman be a simple pleasure the dred scott decision did cause a genuine level of despair in northern black communities early summer of age of fifty six and for some years after that in speech after speech at fifty seven
fifty eight frederick douglas would do is customary thing he would begin with hope in his speech but it usually ended his speech is a native of his own and fifty eight with the biblical line that said i walk by faith and not by sight he was struggling by that point to make the argument to his fellow blacks that they have a future in america because many black leaders in the wake of the dred scott decision organizing immigration movement they felt they had no choice but to try to organize immigration schemes either to the caribbean to central america war or even to west africa first that originated fifty seven and the outbreak of the
war at sixty one is a time of increasing desperation among northern black leadership they began to struggle even with each other over how to define the future is dead then bitter debates over immigration schemes and whether to stay in america whether to join this republican party or find some way to john well it organize even some kind of third political party movement that there had been a moment in the fifties called the radical abolition party audit its it's a desperate time for black leaders because they've been told now that their people have no future in the country and their struggle now is to define a future the dred scott decision in brazil the republican party this whole new political crisis over slavery is also important in the south among slaves themselves a wee appliances shows us the beginning at fifty six presidential election campaign of eighteen fifty six and again and fifty eight congressional elections and certainly an eighteen sixty
there's a lot of a reaction in the southern white press are saying that that that slave owner should keep their slaves away from political meetings because the more slaves gather around these political means more vivid image of them have become aware of the political crisis over slavery and in from at fifty six to the outbreak of the civil war there's a great deal of talk in the southern press about what were called insurrection scarce or insurrection scares particularly in texas and eighteen sixty not often these were plots of bow which people know next to nothing though the dvds were fears as much as they were reality but there's no question among the slaves in the south and certain areas they were becoming completely aware that there was a larger political crisis of their own the land over the over slavery thirty is a fascinating case in south carolina in the late eighteen fifties were a judge's sentencing a white
man who actually helped a fugitive slaves escape from his plantation in in his instructions to this man when he's convicted the south carolina judge says that that he calls these fugitive slaves up free agents quote unquote basses to this man you must be aware that but didi these people were holding him bundy's they have brains he says they have allies they have hands and bodies they can act anew by helping them maybe fermenting an insurrection as a fascinating realization here by a southern judge that if they don't continue to find ways to clamp down on the slave population is larger political crisis over slavery meant the look of those slaves as well and indeed the greatest fear that white southerners in the eight blade eighteen fifty one of the reasons they most feared this republican party in the north and feared the option of lincoln is because they fear for the security of themselves the security of their own
plantation the security of their own communities against the various ways they own the more there was a larger national political crisis over slavery the more fearful southerners became of the security of slavery itself within their own communities in that sense blacks in the south still living as slaves blacks in the north organizing in their own communities are very much important players in the story of the coming of the civil war there's a realization all over america by the late eighteen fifties that this crisis that is happening in the country has everything to do with black people wish it away as many white people wanted the crisis had everything to do with black
where abraham lincoln was abraham lincoln was a henry clay with his political roots are in the whig party alone on the eighteenth or isn't eighteen forty he had served one term us congress and related he'd been in the times during the mexican war there's no question lincoln had always been anti slavery in the sense that he believed it was immoral it was wrong it ought to be put as he said in at fifty and a chorus of ultimate extinction there's no question that that abraham lincoln was a free soil or in the sense that he was opposed to the expansion of slavery or lincoln was also no abolitionist it never join an abolitionist organization says the reality is we it was very hard for blocks in the late eighteenth fifties to find a home in this republican party very hard for them to put their confidence
in the free soil mostly because official movement was not on its surface certainly of the black writes in the north it was not about the right to vote even in northern states are only a handful of militants that even allow blacks to vote this was a political party you know that really offered again and again in the late fifties and only offered blacks a kind of a half loaf or is frederick douglass said lincoln's candidacy an eighteen sixty what lincoln the republicans brought to the cause was one that was called an anti slavery tendency was known as other blacks know that the republican movement was not an abolitionist party with an abolitionist movement in the sense that they had learned that they had come to understand for the last twenty five years but what the republican party represented in the way that blacks could find rays of hope in it is that republican party especially when blacks now listen to settlers with that republican party have the capacity to do was
break up the unions and to the extent this party was causing enough trouble that could cause political disorder that it could threaten the union that it might even though my bring some kind of a break in the nation the republican party did in spite of itself represent real hope now brother douglas ignore nor did any of the rest of the of a black abolitionist really know what that this union would look like they didn't know where we're session whatever go if the cells ever really get it they didn't know the civil war would come as soon as it would but the fondest hopes the black abolitionist have been the late eighteen fifties if if indeed they still have hope that they have a future in america that future is going to depend on some kind of rendering of the country some kind of breakup of the nation out of which would come a struggle over slavery itself because that is eventually exactly what's going to occur but in eighteen fifty eight or
eighteen sixty people did not know that what black abolitionist in the late fifties and the struggle to find a way to do is to put their hold in a political movement who was only marginally in their interest in many ways that tells us a lot about them black political history in america and this is in many ways been the case throughout our political history the actual interest of black rights the actual interest of improving the lives of black communities hasta find a home in larger political movements that exist for many other reasons as well it's been there's been no what black abolitionist in part from a home and the free so movement because this free so movement which becomes the republican party are
advanced what we call the anti slavery interpretation of the constitution and basically all it meant was that that was that was the belief that the constitution could be used to stop the spread of slavery wherever the federal government had jurisdiction at one point at fifty one frederick douglass and that if if the united states constitution cannot be put to the service of advancing freedom if it cannot be used to restore it the life of slavery than the only alternative the left in america was over a revolution either leaving the country or revolution from within so in a sense of these are the views of the choices now that that abolitionists are gonna face in the eighteen fifties increasingly facing him and trenches inside a political culture and a political party system turned itself apart but a political culture that is always trying to find compromises the whole union together to to compromise this problem of slavery in the west abolitionists face these
choices of trying to find ways to use the existing law of using the constitution to threaten slavery to restrict it to control it in any way they can and has long air some kind of anti slavery use of the constitution survived in the eighteen fifties there was still hope it's not as douglas said revolution was probably the only alternative and that again is what makes important the dred scott decision by eighteen fifty seven is through all these years is now thirty seven years since the missouri compromise of hers great compromise of the nineteenth century the thirty seven years the struggle has been over whether the fifth amendment or or various other parts of the constitution is to be used to protect the right of the ownership of slaves or to restrict the spread of slavery and it is the supreme court nineteen fifty seven sang are now what the first amendment means is the man has a right to take his slaves
anywhere near this busy city so chooses black people have no rights that white people must abide by and black people therefore have no future in the country so again in the wake of a team of the spring of eighty and fifty seven to be black in america was to live in the land of the dred scott decision which means he's due to live in the land of the dred scott decisions interpretation of the constitution cruz it's b one thing john brown sought out frederick douglass for several reasons but one that was as great symbolic significance in in in the north and in black communities he saw douglas's somebody probably helped recruit foreign recruit young blacks does cause he also sought sanctioned i think from abolitionist like frederick douglass for the schemes
he was planning and indeed he won a douglas to personally join you then john brown lived there for a full month in january eighteen fifty eight and douglas his home in rochester new york where brown actually wrote his so called provisional constitution that has been put in place in virginia after he attacked harpers ferry but their relationship was very interesting in many ways what douglas found probably in john brown was somebody who would go in do indians who would commit acts that most of the people simply wouldn't and again this is the late eighteen fifties this is this period of increasing desperation in black life in the north and among black abolition is john brown well in kansas in nineteen fifty six and gotten involved in this border civil war who would attack pro slavery people who would let a band of warriors would actually attacked a plantation in missouri and helped eleven slaves escape and transport them across the north into canada is somebody who had gone to lived and acted upon
these radical abolition doctors is that a planet crazy as it may have been to attack the federal arsenal and try to create a slave insurrection throughout virginia in the end it was not something that was would join because he thought it was a it was an act of desperation the newest doomed to fail he's on everybody involved than i would probably the diary but in federal prison by any other hand douglas's relationship with john brown is not unlike the relationship many other abolitionists had with john browne they were glad john brown was out that they were glad john browne was going on do this because frankly by the late eighteen fifties they didn't know what other alternatives were left and there is an increasing sensibility among abolitionists by the late eighteen fifties though they do not know how the planet that slavery is only going to be destroyed through some kind of violence and we should be very careful
about doing impressions about this there's a lot of prophetic about abolitionism was a lot of prophetic about abolitionism in the late eighteen fifties but they did not know exactly how slavery would end but they were increasingly convinced that was going and then some kind of violence and here was a man with the courage and maybe the world to organize and some way to begin that process hence they supported him and i was personally supported him even down to their last meeting they have an artist of eighteen fifty nine at the stone quarry outside of chambers bird pennsylvania where brown makes one last attempt to to personally recruit douglas into his band of men for the attack on harpers ferry which whitaker two months later douglas says to brown you your be captured you you you will be you will be enveloped in steel i think he said i cannot believe you and others went home because that was his involvement in this was in any legal definition as the protests have been in the conspiracy
there's no question douglas knew as much as any abolitionists insanely know as much as the so called secret sex knowing and abolitionists as to what john brown was really up to and after brown's attack on harpers ferry his capture of course those voters life into canada and after great britain and he escaped in rochester new york one with only about forty eight hours to spare when federal marshals came to try to arrest him as a co conspirator in effect in john brown's harper's ferry john brown's raid on harper's ferry is probably most significant because of the reactions because in its wake in the match the reaction was profound every poem seemed to have to write a john brown palm ralph waldo emerson henry david thoreau
name an american author at the time they all found in brown a kind of perfect martyr to the abolitionist cause but possibly it has been many mysteries about john brown one of those mysteries is sometimes why didn't more black to join him or why wasn't as banners army larger as important as a vote is the brown never fully explained his plan his plan of attack on harpers ferry we expect to do after that to very many people and and indeed the question is often has widened more slaves from within virginia join him well in part i didn't because the rail thin forty eight hours but it's important to remember that slaves in the south and free blacks in the north fugitive slaves in canada where he recruited we're always suspicious of their would be liberated years there were suspicious of those people who would risk their lives to
try to establish their freedom to join john brown was to join the moment was to join in africa and of which you just would not know and many of the men who actually do join brian of the blacks who joins john brown with themselves former slaves and at least two instances were going back into virginia to find their own families so they had a very personal reasons to join this was low army who was going to try to attack the federal arsenal and to try to start some kind of enveloping slave insurrection ms schilling in the details he gets a letter he gets a letter from his wife the settlement that's right and the release of two new beauty salon as for the promise plenty of scenery and authority in the film and one of the other reactions there
in many ways john brown's raid on harper's ferry is most significant because of the reactions that caused both the north and south in the north pole it's reacted everywhere our ralph waldo emerson henry david thoreau and john greenleaf whittier and many others all wrote columns about about john brown it was as if they had found the perfect sort of abolitionist martyr and to understand john brown and john brown's raid you really do have to understand him in the context of this christian conception of martyrdom and indeed he sought martyrdom is no question about the impersonal but it's equally interesting to look at politicians to look at republicans' to look at the broader political culture in the north and how people respond to a lot of republican politicians in late eight and fifty nine in an election year of eighteen sixteen will condemn john brown's acts that will condemn him they will say deserves to be home but to do it in such a way as to put greater emphasis on slavery
itself on how but this problem of slavery as the country doesn't find a way to do it the country doesn't find a way to stop its expansion it's gonna face more more john brown's a more and more violent and i met since john brown's acts at harpers ferry didn't have the kind of political impact that that one can suspect he had hoped for john brown becomes now in some ways the template the subject the possibility that everybody is talking about as this election year of eighteen sixteen begins and the south of course the reaction was in many areas near hysteria there were attacks in the south and northerners who were teachers there was a there was a an itinerant piano tuner in tennessee was tired and feathered there was a banking northern born college president and alabama was forced out of his position there were many southern communities who believe that the next attack somewhere in the south was going to come into their community that was in part of course because john
brown had actually kept maps of the southern states with xs are drawn and many southern communities the purpose that was we really don't know but one those maps were published and an n and written up in newspapers many southern commanders believe they were annexed it because an especially hysterical reaction in the state of south carolina an election year comes in south carolina an eighteen sixty in the democratic party plans to have its national convention in charleston south carolina the very real context in which these political events marker in the south is the context of the aftermath of john brown's raid and the fear of continuing enveloping slave insurrection as well we live in virginia with an immediate community
around the harpers ferry in northern virginia the response among slaves to john brown was not much and brown won out into three or four different farms and plantations and freed some dozen or so slaves but most of the slaves perhaps all the slaves in virginia did not know the rate was incoming didn't know who does john brown really was and an indian slaves we're always suspicious of their would be liberated as they have a kind if you like of a peasant consciousness that slaves were protective of the few things they have a few things there with our lives their families may be a garden plot and a poetic risk they didn't know exactly what they were putting at risk for and what happens in virginia of course is the good that white virginians use this after the use the fact of the lack of sleep support for john brown and after a really lasted forty hours
but but but boy regions will use the lack of sleigh support for john brown to try to demonstrate their case about the loyalty of slaves under will be a great deal of rhetoric and wait at fifteen nineteen sixty in virginia about the loyalty of virginia slaves to their masters into the system because they did not join this insurrection no question the john brown's raid and brown singing gave blacks in the north are my hero as they had never had before this was a genuine martyr now in the christian tradition is it's extremely significant in a sense this was a white man who put his life and his courage on the line to try to free black people there just haven't been many examples of that in american history john brown became in the fullest sense of christian martyr
there were pilgrimages to his gravestone up in lake placid new york on the day of his execution became a day that was celebrated blacks celebrated brown nine song in church services and in poetry and indeed it was not a black gathering after the break a break of the civil war there was a recruiting session tour to try to raise a militia troops or whether that was on a church gathering to support emancipation efforts were john brown's body the famous song was not sung john brown became now a principal member of a kind of pantheon of black humored and there you have it the reaction of northerners to the kansas nebraska can be puzzling but what one has to understand what's at stake for northern voters what's at stake for northerners now is their conception of an american future which gives the west freak which leaves it open to that to the mobility
of small white families moving west getting land building new communities being able to establish a society in the west it's based on the individual work ethic that being old establishment hit communities in the west for they don't have to compete with oligarchy like slave holders being overzealous communities of homestead and where the land is essentially free or very cheap and they've come to believe that a lot of the territory that becomes slave labor degrades free labor gobbled up the land and established as a political culture around mount their key they become convinced the northern voters in the eighteen fifties that slavery is in some ways a kind of conspiracy against their conception of what of what society and labor and liberty ought to mean to be an american future moreover northerners really reacted to the kansas nebraska act because they believed that they've been living
in a political culture and a guarantee that had a guarantee against the spread of slavery anywhere north of the thirty six thirty pro an entire west now it is true that many northerners would never move to kansas or move to nebraska or move beyond i was somewhere but to have lots of immigrant americans who are now moving out those eastern cities coming out to ohio or even up till now the most important thing in america's future was the availability of land in the west and anything that future was a threat to their future and kansas nebraska act now said in effect the entire american west is open to future spread of slavery in orbit would come with it so is that it was as though the kansas nebraska act had erased a thirty four year old guarantee that it somehow protected northerners conceptions of what the american future would be one so you have this huge
hit nominate would say that the south was an part of america's future but what mormons were saying there is that in non slavery to be part of the future in the west because slavery would threaten their values their sense of a work ethic and that they were especially concerned that that wherever slavery wasn't intended to degrade the meaning of labor it tended to degrade the meaning it's been it was a civil war inevitable over slavery in america naca war was not necessarily inevitable over slavery in america but the deeper conflict over slavery was any nation that establishes itself and these kinds of creeds as america did and that makes america unique if you like a nation that finds itself on first principles all
four of which are right there in his founding documents the declaration of independence a nation that found itself on the creeds of life liberty pursuit of happiness the right of revolution the doctrine of consent in the doctrine of the quality and yet developed one of the larger systems of human bondage in the world is living a national life of contradictions it therefore sets up a contradictory history that inevitably lead to conflict and you could argue as many haven't i think there's much to this that america was in some sense of destiny probably for some kind of violent conclusion to give to the slavery prom in part because it was a republic and there other nations in the world of freed the slaves without violence without massive once russia is the classic case in russia serfdom was destroyed by an edict of bizarre with virtually no violence whatsoever it was ended in an autocracy largely well abundance america because it was a republican
and because slavery became so central to the national economy because people on all sides when someone in vested in the system in one way or another because it was so important to the economy slavery therefore is going to be defended if it's prosperous it groove chorus and leaps and bounds in the nineteen century american slavery was the only slave system in modern history that naturally reproduced itself or the slaves grew geometrically course in time by eighteen twenty nineteen thirties white southerners are beginning to have to defend slavery in a very organized way as a positive good as a system that is the best kind of labor has a system is the best cavs organic society because america was a republic we're opinion was supposed to be free where dissent was free southerners were in overtime defender system and yet on the other side because it's a nation founded
on these crickets of liberty inequality inevitable there was going to be an anti slavery movement and those two movements were initially going to clash so yes the conflict without question was inevitable whether ends in the kind of war we have is a bit of another story that has to do with the breakup of the political culture and eighteen fifties with with southern decisions to secede from the union that has to do directly with the nature of disunion that leads to war or and the republican party's and lincoln's insistence on preserving the union and therefore going to war to do just that while visions of how slavery would end in america is a difficult problem to understand that from very early on in the age of the american revolution there are many people who believe it's jefferson seemed to have believed himself as did many of those jeffersonian idealist as we call
them that somehow in the american republic eventually slavery simply would die out it would we knew we rolled it couldn't quite live in the same chair with american liberty over time because a lot of that thought is happening before the invention of the cotton gin before the vast expansion of slave labor and cut production across the deep south in many ways if the united states had not had this vast and rich soil of the great deep south in mississippi valley new parts of the southwest was not forget texas and i had not had this way rich and seemingly limitless supply of land to the west in the early nineteenth century of course libby would never spread as far as that did it is possible that slavery might have somehow been snuffed out over time if you can imagine connor factually that the american north american continent end of the appalachian mountains
because there was this vast west americans have to struggle now with the spread of this institution and in the wake of the war of eighteen to open by the eighteen twenty slave is expanding in leaps and bounds and population of slaves is is is growing geometrically into the west and indeed the westward movement was part of southern history and slaves were part of the westward movement with himself by eating twenties thirties and forties now americans got to try to imagine a future whether of whether it has slavery in a corner and this was a test not only about militias in the north of a free black abolitionist move to this free so the north and try to imagine in the future in their own communities but of course it's the task of white southerners to imagine a secure future for this system that they now are becoming increasingly committed to both economically and morally i am when americans talk about the future of slavery in the thirty years before the civil war they increasingly began to think about it with a sense of dread
it's one of the great ironies and contradictions of antebellum america as women ambiguity is of antebellum america because on the one hand this period of american history is a time of tremendous hope it's a kind of golden age of of hope and literature and art that we call it the american renaissance the writings of emerson thoreau whitman and so many others and we should add of frederick douglass com but on the other hand it's also a society living with a contradiction deep within itself with an increasing sense of dread that their future involves a conflict that they may not have solutions for and what can see that sense of dread over the culture by the eighteen fifties this tremendous sense of hope that's alive and well with this expansion this country begins to run into the wall of the politics of slavery by the eighteen fifty biggest event that opened at issue were probably more
than anything else was the expansion this war was the mexican war which once and for all brought slavery out of that show back out into the political culture can only be gagged in congress org or kept out of political debate and it was it was outside in american life now forever and it had to be dealt with in that sense blacks with an american africans with an american art part of the very real center of the story in that if america is to be what it says it is in its founding documents of it is to find a way to create a future and someone fulfills any of those creates it has to find a way to explain to itself why black people are kept in slavery and white people are free is ultimately a contradiction that forces answers to questions as simple as that a knife in you find it eighteen fifties a lot of white northerners let's remember the
bass coalition was put together in the republican party but the lady eating fifties are white voters many of them former are immigrants themselves with his sons in the sons of immigrants these are people who grown up believing in america as a place it's essentially a white man's country but they come to believe that it that it must be a country with a future war slavery can no longer be allowed to exist in that sense a love white racist northerners do become anti slavery in the sense that they won a future where they will have to compete with a system rooted in a labor system whatsoever one election of abraham lincoln was not the only thing white southerners were reacting to
an eighteen sixty and this movement toward secession they were reacting now to their perception of a political party that now could control the presidency could control the federal government would restrict the future of slavery and southerners for years no one ever the republicans abraham lincoln's election and nineteen sixties threatened white southerners and it is in part the reason that the secession movement begins in the wake of lincoln his election a white southerners now are reacting to a political movement in the republican party that they believe stands now only for the restriction of the spread of slavery and of the west and cons of cutting off slavery future but they have three years believes whether they're interpreting this rightly or wrongly that he condemned slavery anywhere is to condemn everywhere
and what white southerners are particularly responding to and the secession crisis of eighteen sixteen sixty one is their conception now as was no simple thing for white southerners to do that was a great deal of impulse against secession the south what they're responding to a great power as their own sense of a kind of shrinking south which meant a shrinking system of slavery a shrinking of their way of life as they knew it their shrinking of their political economy as they understood they saw and lincoln and the republican party whatever the republican party said it stood for as a threat to the future as they understood it now blacks in the south slaves all across the south are not unaware that this crisis in the larger politics is happening they're not unaware that somehow aren't there international action some but he's been elected to the presidency that has threatened the hell out of their ministries that has caused great tension all over southern society they're also not unaware of john brown's raid which occurred only year
before the deal watch elevating sixty something out there in the larger political world is causing the south to retreat in itself did to organize itself in a kind of unusual desperate way and indeed lo and behold has forced them even to secede from the union to form their own government its force white southerners to be organizing a militia groups blacks go out to watch these militia march they go they got a listener political meetings whenever they're allowed to there they're very much aware in the south that something that there is happening has probably done a lot to do with them we know that in part because of a lot of interviews long time after emancipation in the civil war or elderly slaves remember the late eighteen fifties and they remember their election year eighteen sixteen out of the masters and their families were so upset and always out marching always gone the political meetings and lonely old and has a middle of them
Africans in America
Episode Number
Judgment Day
Raw Footage
Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 4 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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David Blight is interviewed about David Walker's appeal for insurrection in 1829, William Lloyd Garrison and moral suasion, burning of Pennsylvania Hall in 1838 and attacks on abolitiionists, black communities in the north and racism, Vigilance Committees, slave narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin, Fugitive Slave law of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Free Soil Movement, the Dred Scott decision, insurrection fears, John Brown and Frederick Douglass, raid on Harper's Ferry, election of Lincoln and secession movement.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
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Identifier: Blight_David_04_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 1:29:33
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 4 of 4 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 4 of 4 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 4 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from