The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race

Stauffer, John. The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Source Type
Secondary
Year
2002
Publication Type
Book
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 242-243.
Body Summary:
When [Gerrit] Smith read the news of the raid and the actual results of his prophecy, he suffered a blow from which he never recovered. Seventeen men had been killed in battle, and [John] Brown and four surviving comrades had been captured and were almost certain to hang. And Smith’s own name was intimately linked to these deaths. He was far more sensitive and uncomfortable about the use (and sight) of bloodshed than were his co-conspirators, and more self-critical and introspective. To be sure, he had advocated violence in Kansas and had helped to fund it. But in that instance his violent means had yielded noble ends, for in his mind Kansas had been “saved” from slavery. Now violent action had brought failure, destruction, and death. And as he looked at what he had wrought, something snapped within him. The break affected him both outwardly and inwardly. The outward signs of the blow were noticeable immediately but subsided over time. The internal effects accrued slowly, almost without Gerrit’s knowing it; they did not show themselves for some time, but when they did, the change was profound.
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 255-256.
Body Summary:
Although the outcome of the raid would undoubtedly have been the same, more blacks might have come to his aid had Brown’s timing been better. Almost every analysis of the raid asserts that slaves and free flacks ignored Brown’s efforts on their behalf, but some evidence – much of it stemming from oral tradition – suggests that free blacks in Jefferson County and throughout the North and Canada knew of Brown’s plans and were prepared to join him. Brown originally scheduled the raid for July 4, 1858 (reflecting his fondness for symbolic value), but the date was postponed when one of his comrades, Hugh Forbes, turned traitor and threatened to expose the raid unless he received money…Evidently, his attack caught a number of his allies by surprise: Richard Hinton was in nearby Chambersburg “at a black-operated underground railroad post,” awaiting word to join Brown. Harriet Tubman, was trying to recruit followers. And a group of blacks from Ontario, Canada, were near Detroit, and supposedly on their way to join Brown.
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 21-22.
Body Summary:
On the night of May 24, Brown and a group of seven men cut the throats of five unarmed proslavery settlers and hacked them to death with broadswords. Brown's actions need to be understood within the context of the Radical Abolition party and its doctrines. Brown is often described as unique among abolitionists, the ne plus ultra of fanatics, but he is seldom associated with political abolitionism. Yet he aligned himself closely with Gerrit Smith, McCune Smith, and Douglass, attended other political conventions with them, and justified his actions under God and the Radical Abolitionist message that whatever was right was practicable, to paraphrase Douglass. Brown and his comrades were not far removed from Preston Brooks and the thousands of Southerners who sent him canes of congratulation: both sides advocated violent means for realizing wholly different visions of their country. But the two men's uses of violence differed in two ways. First, Brooks used violence to defend his (and the South's) honor, while Brown used violence to defend his (and Radical Abolitionists') vision of social equality. Second, Sumner had challenged and provoked Brooks with his speech; Brown's victims had done nothing directly to provoke or challenge Brown and his men.
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 8-9.
Body Summary:
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.
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 118-119.
Body Summary:
John Brown was among the many reformers who considered Elijah Lovejoy's murder the spark that fired his fervent abolitionism. But Brown's reference to Lovejoy's martyrdom needs to be understood within the context of social and religious forces that transformed him into a militant abolitionist…Lovejoy's death certainly upset Brown, but it was not so much the event itself that led to Brown's oath. Rather, Lovejoy's death signified for Brown all that was wrong in the country, much the same way that the Slave Power later symbolized for Northerners the source of their fears and anxieties. Lovejoy's death coincided with a series of tragedies in Brown's life, culminating in the panic of 1837, that made him want to replace his existing world with his millennialist and perfectionist vision.
Citation:
John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 56-58.
Body Summary:
In September 1856 John Brown sat for his portrait…Although he was not yet well known at the national level, he was quickly gaining fame as a freedom fighter in Kansas. As his reputation for militant abolitionism grew, he increasingly sat for his "likeness." He had numerous portraits taken of him while in Kansas, and preferred to have black artists or abolitionists represent him. This daguerreotype was created by John Bowles, a Kentucky slaveowner who had emancipated his slaves and became an abolitionist and comrade of Brown in Kansas. Bowles was quite familiar with Brown's willingness to befriend and identify himself with blacks, and one might argue that he portrays Brown as someone who blurs the line between black and white: the daguerreotype is slightly underexposed, rendering Brown's tanned skin even darker than it actually was. Brown's face appears tawny, as dark as Douglass' in the frontispiece of My Bondage.
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