In observation of the U.N. International Day to Abolish Slavery, MTH&M and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture present a conversation on four pivotal figures in the abolitionist movement. Featured guests include Linda Hirshman, author of THE COLOR OF ABOLITION: How a Printer, a Prophet and a Contessa Moved a Nation, and Lydia Moland, author of LYDIA MARIA CHILD: A Radical American Life, and University of Massachusetts at Lowell Professor dann J. Broyld.
About THE COLOR OF ABOLITION: How a Printer, a Prophet and a Contessa Moved a Nation
In the crucial early years of the Abolition movement, the Boston branch of the cause seized upon the star power of the eloquent ex-slave Frederick Douglass to make its case for slaves’ freedom. Journalist William Lloyd Garrison promoted emancipation while Garrison loyalist Maria Weston Chapman, known as “the Contessa,” raised money and managed Douglass’s speaking tour from her Boston townhouse.
Conventional histories have seen Douglass’s departure for the New York wing of the Abolition party as a result of a rift between Douglass and Garrison. But, as acclaimed historian Linda Hirshman reveals, this completely misses the woman in power. Weston Chapman wrote cutting letters to Douglass, doubting his loyalty; the Bostonian abolitionists were shot through with racist prejudice, even aiming the N-word at Douglass among themselves. Through incisive, original analysis, Hirshman convinces that the inevitable breakup was in fact a successful failure. Eventually, as the most sought-after Black activist in America, Douglass was able to dangle the prize of his endorsement over the Republican Party’s candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln. Two years later the abolition of slavery—if not the abolition of racism—became immutable law.
About LYDIA MARIA CHILD: A Radical American Life
By 1830, Lydia Maria Child had established herself as something almost unheard of in the American nineteenth century: a beloved and self-sufficient female author. Best known today for the immortal poem “Over the River and through the Wood,” Child had become famous at an early age for spunky self-help books and charming children’s stories. But in 1833, Child shocked her readers by publishing the first book-length argument against slavery in the United States—a book so radical in its commitment to abolition that friends abandoned her, patrons ostracized her, and her book sales plummeted. Yet Child soon drew untold numbers to the abolitionist cause, becoming one of the foremost authors and activists of her generation.
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