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John Brown, Radical Abolition Party Convention in 1855 (Stauffer, 2002)

Scholarship

John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 8-9.

The inaugural convention of Radical Abolitionists has been largely forgotten in American history, and the party it launched won few votes and never elected a candidate to office. In fact the party itself lasted only five years and never polled more than a few thousand votes in a single election. But the convention that gave birth to the Radical Abolition party has deep cultural relevance: it marked an unprecedented moment of interracial unity and collapsing of racial barriers. It is the only recorded moment at which Gerrit Smith, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown were all in the same place. Despite their close friendship, which began in the late 1840s, they lived in different parts of New York State and had few opportunities to be together. The convention gave tangible shape to their goals for ending slavery, their hopes for their country, and the means for realizing their dreams of a new world. They arrived with high expectations, and left feeling elated by what had transpired. But the convention also marked the crossing of a Rubicon, for the party’s platform specifically affirmed violence as a way to end slavery and oppression. The embrace of violence would eventually destroy the four men’s alliance.
How to Cite This Page: "John Brown, Radical Abolition Party Convention in 1855 (Stauffer, 2002)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/14775.