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Unlike the Garrisonians, who held that morality and spirituality should be aloof from politics, the Radical Abolitionists argued that politics should be the foundation and the outlet for true spirituality, and that the Constitution should be seen as a sacred text on a par with the Bible. Stauffer argues, however, that the most important contribution of the Radical Abolition Party is not in its politics, but in its leadership, a leadership comprised of four men who broke through the mistrust inherent in a racist system to become friends as well as abolitionist colleagues.

Using these men whose cross-racial friendship previewed the future, Stauffer suggests that the empathy, admiration, and trust that cemented their friendship is the key to a democratic future for America, even while he notes the tragedy of that relationship. The tragedy, Stauffer tells us, is that the friendship between these men was built upon a mutual commitment to violence--God-inspired violence, but violence nonetheless.

It is here that Stauffer moves from neutral historian to biased commentator, for he frequently reminds his readers of his own conviction that nothing enduringly positive can come from violence. I agree with this conviction, but Stauffer's repetition of it is sometimes annoyingly didactic. He focuses heavily on Gerrit Smith's "guilt about his sanction of violence" p.

Black Hearts won the Avery O. Craven prize, awarded by the Organization of American Historians for "the most original book on the coming of the Civil War--with the exception of works of purely military history. Vann Woodward as a "forgotten alternative," namely, that antebellum American history contains several examples of cross-racial alliances and cooperation, which, for many reasons, the late-nineteenth-century era of Jim Crow has erased from our collective memory.

Stauffer tells us that Gerrit Smith's correspondence with Douglass and McCune Smith "represents the largest biracial correspondence in antebellum America" p.

I have recently come upon a similarly rich cache of correspondence between Philadelphia white Quaker Benjamin Coates and more than a dozen African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the Virginian who relocated to Liberia and eventually became its president. But Coates differed from Gerrrit Smith in that, although he sometimes entertained Roberts in his home, and often addressed his black correspondents in intimate terms, he did not embrace them as equals, seldom incorporated their ideas into his own thinking, and never developed an intimate interracial community.

So in exploring the friendship between the two Smiths, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown, Stauffer has, indeed, created an "original" work, introducing the importance of friendship, mutuality, and what he calls "diverse aspects of identity and personal behavior" p. Stauffer spends considerable time on the important diverse aspects of religious identity in nineteenth-century America, and by and large the book is the stronger for it. Like many scholars, however, he falls into the trap of describing "the Quakers" without distinguishing the continuum of Quaker radicalism over race that extends from Lucretia Mott, who included black people in her social circle, to colonizationists like Coates, who felt that African Americans would be better off in Africa, to those who insisted that all society would be better off if African Americans were to return to Africa.

In these ways, Stauffer's work invites a deeper search for correspondence between nineteenth-century black Americans and their white benefactors. More than an engaging history of antislavery, this volume, with its abundant use of primary sources, restores James McCune Smith and Gerrit Smith to their historical positions as preeminent radical abolitionists and pioneer fighters against racism. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins Library Journal Stauffer examines the small group of friends and colleagues who gave the abolitionist movement its focus and voice Stauffer charts their collective efforts to convert their compatriots to the abolitionist cause, which led, he writes, to both successes and failures: the effort to emancipate slaves led eventually to war, he observes, but also in a 'century of horrible racism and racial oppression following the war [that] stemmed in part from the savage violence that brought slavery to an end' A welcome addition to the historical literature.

Kirkus Reviews Stauffer offers an account of these four lives joined for a historical moment by 'their vision of a sacred, sin-free, and pluralist society, as well as by their willingness to use violence to effect it. A splendidly illustrated excursion into the American fascination with daguerreotype shows the four using that form to further their public image Publishers Weekly The Black Hearts of Men is a story of politics, religion, sin, guilt, passion, murder and expiation.

It begins in innocence and good intentions and ends in bloodshed and madness Stauffer knows what he has with this remarkable story. He deftly outlines the thinking of his subjects, and is especially good at showing the links between their religious beliefs and their politics.

These four men Failing to achieve these objectives, they adopted a militant position by organizing the Radical Abolition Party endorsing violence, justifying their actions in the name of righteousness The book expands our knowledge of the changing nature of antislavery and antebellum reform as the nation approached the Civil War. Fionnghuala Sweeney History. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

At a time when slavery was spreading and the country was steeped in racism, two white men and two black men overcame social barriers and mistrust to form a unique alliance that sought nothing less than the end of all evil. Drawing on the largest extant bi-racial correspondence in the Civil War era, John Stauffer braids together these men's struggles to reconcile ideals of justice with the reality of slavery and oppression.

Who could imagine that Gerrit Smith, one of the richest men in the country, would give away his wealth to the poor and ally himself with Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave? And why would James McCune Smith, the most educated black man in the country, link arms with John Brown, a bankrupt entrepreneur, along with the others? Distinguished by their interracial bonds, they shared a millennialist vision of a new world where everyone was free and equal.

As the nation headed toward armed conflict, these men waged their own war by establishing model interracial communities, forming a new political party, and embracing violence. Their revolutionary ethos bridged the divide between the sacred and the profane, black and white, masculine and feminine, and civilization and savagery that had long girded western culture.

In so doing, it embraced a malleable and "black-hearted" self that was capable of violent revolt against a slaveholding nation, in order to usher in a kingdom of God on earth. In tracing the rise and fall of their prophetic vision and alliance, Stauffer reveals how radical reform helped propel the nation toward war even as it strove to vanquish slavery and preserve the peace.

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Elizabeth R. Review More than an engaging history of antislavery, this volume, with its abundant use of primary sources, restores James McCune Smith and Gerrit Smith to their historical positions as preeminent radical abolitionists and pioneer fighters against racism. Read more. Don't have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers.

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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (Paperback)

Well written, well researched, something that should be on the shelf of anyone who wishes to read about antebellum America. Format: Paperback. The four men, two black and two white, formed a de facto alliance--although they would not have recognized it as such--to end slavery and were willing to use violence to do so.

In a scintillating narrative that provides both enjoyable reading and penetrating analysis, John Stauffer links the four together as opponents of slavery seeking to overcome the "black hearts of men" but also partaking of the "black hearts of murder.


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  • The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race | John Stauffer.
  • The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race.

His chapters relate to how these individuals perceived images of race, religion, economics, politics, identity, and women. At some level the most interesting figure presented in this book, perhaps because I knew the least about him, was Gerrit Smith. Although virtually every history of abolitionism mentions him, Stauffer goes deeper to explain Smith's patrician background, his adoption of antislavery, and his vigorous campaign to end it that sometimes resulted in violence.

The Black Hearts of Men Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race b | eBay

He notes how Smith attempted to found a multiracial community in New York state, an endeavor clearly tied to the utopian experiments of the era. He participated in an effort to rescue slaves and supported John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE The Abolitionists, Part One, Chapter 1

Shocked by the outcome of that raid, however, Smith then adopted white supremacism. One of the central tenets of this book, and it is boldly stated, is that radical abolititionism led to the transformation of race as a concept in American history.