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This is a major work of historical analysis and argument, a work that will make

a difference in the study of reform, white-black relations, personal relations among men

 

 

The Black Hearts of Men

Radical Abolitionists and The Transformation of Race

By John Stauffer

Reviews

 

At a time when slavery was spreading and the country was steeped in racism, two white men and two black men overcame social barriers and mistrust to form a unique alliance that sought nothing less than the end of all evil. Drawing on the largest extant biracial correspondence in the Civil War era, John Stauffer braids together these men's struggles to reconcile ideals of justice with the reality of slavery and oppression.

 

Who could imagine that Gerritt Smith, one of the richest men in the country, would give away his wealth to the poor and ally himself with Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave? And why would James McCune Smith, the most highly educated black man in the country, link arms with John Brown, a bankrupt entrepreneur, along with the others? Distinguished by their interracial bonds, they shared a millennialist vision of a new world in which everyone was free and equal.

As the nation headed toward armed conflict, these men waged their own war by establishing model interracial communities, forming a new political party, and embracing violence. Their revolutionary ethos bridged the divide between the sacred and the profane, black and white, masculine and feminine, and civilization and savagery that had long girded Western culture. In so doing, it embraced a malleable and "black-hearted" self that was capable of violent revolt against a slaveholding nation, in order to usher in a kingdom of God on Earth. In tracing the rise and fall of these men's vision and alliance, Stauffer reveals how radical reform helped propel the nation toward war war even as it strove to vanquish slavery and preserve the peace.Publisher, Book Cover

 

John Stauffer has written an extremely original, powerful, and brilliant book. he uses the issues of race, identity, and abolitionism to illuminate some of the deepest currents of change in mid-nineteenth-century America. He brings to his breathtaking research not only a broad knowledge of the history of slavery, religion, and reform movements, but the skills and sensitivity to material culture of a professional photographer. This book should become a classic--surely one of the very best books ever written on American abolitionists.David Brion Davis, author of The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture

 

Stauffer has written one of the most original books on abolitionism in years especially illuminating the religious and strategic evolution toward violence in the antislavery movement, and bringing Gerrit Smith's rise and fall to light as never before. A masterful execution of collective biography, this is the story of how four brilliant men prepared to destroy slavery, and the price they paid to imagine an America that could conquer race.David Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

 

This is a major work of historical analysis and argument, a work that will make a difference in the study of reform, white-black relations, personal relations among men, and social action in the antebellum period. At times the book reads like a novel, or a novelistic narrative, in the best sense: not an attempt to fictionalize historical documents, but to make documented actions and thoughts, motives and regrets, present to the reader.Alan Trachtenberg, Yale University

 

The Black hearts of men remarkable relationships among four vibrant white and black abolitionists--Gerrit Smith, John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and James McCune Smith--whose embrace of perfectionism and violence ultimately spawned John Brown's fateful, apocalyptic raid at Harper's ferry. Few books so compellingly uplift the personal and intellectual dimensions of radical abolitionism, and Stauffer's exceptional portraits grippingly explore the human dimensions that fueled America's cataclysmic moral struggle against slaveholding.Jon Butler, author of Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776

 

 

 

 

Content

 

Introduction

1

One
The Radical Abolitionist Call to Arms

8

Two
Creating an Image in Black

45

Three
Glimpsing God's World on Earth

71

Four
The Panic and the Making of Abolitionists

95

Five
Bible Politics and the Creation of the Alliance

134

Six
Learning from Indians

182

Seven
Man Is Woman and Woman Is Man

208

Eight
The Alliance Ends and the War Begins

236

Epilogue

282

Abbreviations

287

Acknowledgements

355

Index

359

   
Source: John Stauffer. The Black  Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.  

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JOHN STAUFFER is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.  He received his Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University in 1999, and won the Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for the best dissertation in American Studies from the American Studies Association.  His first book, The Black Hearts of Men:  Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Harvard University Press, 2002) was the co-winner of the 2002 Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute; winner of the Avery Craven Book Prize from the OAH; and the Lincoln Prize runner-up.  He is completing an edition of Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom for the Modern Library; editing a collection of John Brown’s writings; and writing a new book, “The American Sublime:  Interracial Friendships and the Dilemma of Democracy.”  

The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, And the Ambiguities of American Reform . Edited by Steven Mintz and John Stauffer

 

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The Black Hearts of Men

Radical Abolitionists and The Transformation of Race

By John Stauffer

John Stauffer's new volume  The Black  Hearts of Men introduces us to four nineteenth-century civil rights activists who attempted to live as if the future they needed had already come.  And hence Stauffer's study reminds us that the future of cross-racial and cross-cultural alliances may depend upon remembering that such alliances have had an honorable past, one that allowed individuals to transcend such political constructs as race, gender, class, age, or the other boundaries created by societies. Stauffer's study, an intertwined biography of four men--two white, two black--recounts, in its basic story line, the events and experiences that led them to found a political party based upon their Christian beliefs concerning the necessity of bringing about a new future for American slavery, race relations, and democracy. Convening a small conference in Syracuse, New York, in the summer of 1855, Gerrit Smith, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown founded the Radical Abolition Party, which lasted five years, and polled a few thousand votes in its various political campaigns between 1855 and 1860.

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Related files:   Black Hearts Review  More Black Hearts Reviews     Black Hearts of Men Introduction  The Works of James McCune Smith