Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement

Article excerpt

To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement. By Christopher Cameron. American Abolitionism and Antislavery. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2014. Pp. viii, 172. $45.00, ISBN 978-1-60635-194-9.)

David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829) struck American readers like a bombshell, frightening (and infuriating) white southerners and invigorating northern antislavery reformers to greater effort and radicalism. After his death in 1830, many of Walker's most powerful arguments--against the gradualism of colonizationist schemes, for the repeal of discriminatory laws, in favor of black self-help and racial unity, and in warnings about God's wrath in judgment of the sinfulness of slavery--became frequent themes in the pages of William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator and in the ideology of the radical abolitionist movement as a whole. Though Garrison freely acknowledged the influence of the black community in his own extended intellectual development, and though much of Walker's Appeal was a history lesson in the evolution of black resistance ideology, historians often mark the era of these two men as the beginning of the modern abolitionist movement.

However, in his new book To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement, Christopher Cameron argues that the blending of political and religious rhetoric in the cause of abolitionism was not an approach to reform first taken by radicals in the early 1830s, but rather a tactic black reformers in Massachusetts had employed in their fight against slavery since the eighteenth century. Indeed, Cameron suggests that these early abolitionists were just as radical as their counterparts of the next century, and that the origins of abolitionism in America are located among those early black activists in Massachusetts. …

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