Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

.@NYTCivilWar asks "Was Abolitionism a Failure?"

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War, The New York Times has created Disunion, an online blog that uses diaries, primary sources, and contemporary analysis to follow the war as it happened. This week, the blog featured an essay by historian Jon Grispan entitled "Was Abolitionism a Failure?". Grispan argues that abolitionism was largely unpopular prior to the Civil War, and it was the secession of the South and subsequent war, that allowed abolitionist thought entrance into mainstream political debate. 

Grispan writes: 

"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!    

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