Black Abolitionists and the National Crisis
Black abolitionists sought to convince the American public that slaveholding interests--the "slave power" --corrupted the South, caused racial prejudice in the North, and threatened American democracy. In the 1840s and 1850s, they witnessed slavery's growing influence on the federal government. The Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the attempt to annex Cuba as a slave state, the movement to reopen the slave trade, and the Dred Scott decision all seemed to underscore the power of slaveholding interests at the national level. African Americans reacted with dismay, disbelief, and anger as the government policies upheld slavery and systematically eroded their civil rights. The federal government's conduct compelled African Americans to reassess antislavery tactics and goals and to question fundamental beliefs about the nation's institutions and democratic political principles.
Joseph C. Holly, a poet and antislavery lecturer, explored the political, economic, and moral costs of the federal government's "unhallowed