Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society

By Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview

Mary Ann Shadd Cary
and Black Abolitionism

PAUL A. CIMBALA

In January 1849, Mary Ann Shadd, a twenty-five-year-old free-born African- American schoolteacher from Wilmington, Delaware, boldly criticized the Northern black leadership in a letter soon published in Frederick Douglass North Star--a forum the leadership was bound to notice. Unleashing one verbal volley after another, she ridiculed black conventioneers who made thumping speeches at their annual meetings, "whining over our difficulties and afflictions, passing resolutions on resolutions to any extent," but who were not very effective in seeing "practical efforts to an end." She chastised a money-hungry, "corrupt clergy" full of "gross ignorance and insolent bearing" for "sapping our every means, and, as a compensation, inculcating ignorance as a duty, superstition as true religion." And she advised free blacks to ignore these "high priests" who urged them to put aside worldly concerns lest they be distracted from devoting themselves to contemplating the next life.

Shadd's letter may have lacked tact, but it embodied a style that would become the hallmark of her career in reform. More important, however, were the ideas outlined along with the personality revealed, ideas that formed the lifelong core of Shadd's reform philosophy. "We should do more, and talk less," she advised. Northern blacks must be world-wise, must think in practical terms, and must take charge of their destiny. They must emphasize "individual enterprise and self-reliance," because by becoming producers, they would earn the respect of the larger white community in which they would continue to live. They must grapple with ignorance, taking "the knowledge of the white man" while avoiding "imitating his follies." And, Shadd warned, they should not allow their preachers to disabuse them of the importance of the political franchise. She saw "no need" for "our distinctive meetings," a conclusion drawn as much from her opposition to segregation, which kept blacks and whites from

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Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Catharine Beecher and Domestic Relations 1
  • Notes 16
  • Bibliography 17
  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Black Abolitionism 19
  • Notes 38
  • Bibliography 40
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Woman's Rights Movement 41
  • Notes 51
  • Bibliography 53
  • Dorothea Dix and Mental Health Reform 55
  • Notes 69
  • Bibliography 71
  • Frances Willard and Temperance 73
  • Notes 82
  • Bibliography 83
  • Jane Addams and the Settlement House Movement 85
  • Notes 97
  • Bibliography 98
  • Ida Wells-Barnett and the African-American Anti-Lynching Campaign 99
  • Notes 110
  • Bibliography 111
  • Jessie Daniel Ames and the White Women's Anti- Lynching Campaign 113
  • Notes 123
  • Bibliography 123
  • Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement 125
  • Notes 136
  • Bibliography 137
  • Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement 139
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 152
  • Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women 153
  • Notes 164
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 167
  • About the Editors and Contributors 171
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