Chapter

“Pressing Forward to Greater Perfection”: Radical Abolitionists, Black Labor, and Black Working-Class Activism after 1840

in In the Shadow of Slavery

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780226317748
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226317755 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226317755.003.0008
“Pressing Forward to Greater Perfection”: Radical Abolitionists, Black Labor, and Black Working-Class Activism after 1840

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After the abolitionist schism of 1840, larger numbers of blacks were more openly critical of middle-class abolitionists' focus on moral reform and intellectual improvement as the only paths to equality for free blacks. Many blacks were dismayed by the increasing focus of white abolitionists on the problem of southern slavery at the expense of addressing northern racism and the conditions of free blacks. Blacks continued to see the struggle against slavery and the struggle for racial equality as linked. But white antislavery activists increasingly separated the two struggles. In formulating plans to address white racism and free blacks' poverty and lack of citizenship rights, black abolitionists in the 1840s largely had to rely on the limited resources of blacks themselves. A new group of black reformers animated the struggle for black equality in the 1840s. Their efforts at uplift moved beyond moral reform and intellectual improvement to seek more pragmatic methods of improving the condition of free blacks.

Keywords: middle-class abolitionists; moral reform; free blacks; slavery; racism; racial equality; citizenship rights

Chapter.  13314 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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