Hinton Rowan Helper: Abolitionist-Racist

Hinton Rowan Helper: Abolitionist-Racist

Hinton Rowan Helper: Abolitionist-Racist

Hinton Rowan Helper: Abolitionist-Racist

Excerpt

HINTON ROWAN HELPER -- a statistical fanatic, abolitionist, militant racist, Republican propagandist, ardent patriot, international railway projector, and promoter of inter-American co-operation-- was a man of great paradox and tragedy. Born and reared a Southerner, he became a caustic and potent critic of slavery, who sought to "liberate" his people from its burdens. Unlike many of his Northern abolitionist friends, however, he loathed not only the Negro but most "non-Anglo-Saxon peoples." It is shocking to read Helper's violent pleas for abolition and to know of his contempt for the Negro.

Helper was fascinated by statistics and by quantitative evaluations, but for too long he has been regarded primarily as a statistician concerned only with calculations. He was that, but much more importantly, he was a member of the relatively small mechanical and clerical class of the provincial, Southern back-country who came to grips with the fundamental question of economic survival. In this light his racist attitudes, while deplorable, are understandable and suggest that the views of abolitionism have been too greatly conditioned by the study of New England figures.

In some ways Helper's racism is the least of the many paradoxes in his career. Born in poverty, he acquired a moderate sum of money, only to spend it in promoting an abortive international . . .

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