"In a deeply racist society, where most white Americans, South and North, valued sectional unity above equal rights, “abolitionist” was usually a dirty word. One man who campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 complained: “I have been denounced as impudent, foppish, immature, and worse than all, an Abolitionist.”"
Harriet Beecher Stowe was not at first considered an abolitionist either. While her younger brother Henry Ward Beecher took up the cause with force, Stowe positioned herself as an advocate against the harsh cruelties of slavery, drawing slight parallels from the hardship she endured as a mother who lost her child to the loss individuals held in slavery were forced to endure. She diverts explicit abolitionism in Uncle Tom's Cabin by concluding the novel with the travel of several formally enslaved characters to Liberia, a country colonized by the U.S. as a place for the formerly enslaved. Stowe later evolves on this position, and comes to embrace the idea of permanent abolition to the practice of slavery.
As Grispan notes, the identity "abolitionist" is now championed by contemporary activists, who work to liberate individuals, institutions, and and communities from oppression, whether it be political, economic, social, or environmental.
Do you consider yourself an abolitionist? Does it often take a glaring, traumatic event, such as a war to mobilize movements? Have you ever evolved on a position like Stowe did? How have you learned about abolitionism and the Civil War? Share your ideas below!