Higginson, Thomas Wentworth

Life Span
Full name
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Place of Birth
Burial Place
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Free State
No. of Spouses
Stephen Higginson, Jr. (father), Louisa Storrow (mother), Mary Elizabeth Channing (wife, 1847)
Writer or Artist
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Union Army

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (American National Biography)

Radical action was central to Higginson's efforts. His unequivocal opposition to the fugitive slave law was evident as he participated in freeing fugitive slave Thomas Sims and participating in attacking the Boston Courthouse, where fugitive slave Anthony Burns was held. Recruiting and leading armed men to the Kansas territory after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), Higginson helped organize the Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee, the militant arm of the Emigrant Aid Society. "A single day in Kansas," wrote Higginson from Lawrence, "makes the American Revolution more intelligible than all Sparks and Hildreth [historians; see Jared Sparks] can do." He praised "Old Captain John Brown . . . who has prayers every morning, and then sallies forth, with seven stalwart sons, wherever duty or danger calls, who swallows a Missourian whole and says grace after the meat" (Liberator, 16 Jan. 1857). In January 1857 he organized the Worcester Disunion Convention, which declared that abolition must be the primary goal: "peace or war is a secondary consideration" (Proceedings of the State Disunion Convention, Boston [1857], p. 18).

Higginson was one of the "Secret Six"--abolitionists who raised money for Brown's planned slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Unlike some other radical abolitionists, he supported Lincoln's presidential candidacy. But his wife's poor health prevented him, at the war's outset, from joining the army. Instead, he became a man of letters, publishing frequently in the Atlantic Monthly.
Tilden G. Edelstein, "Higginson, Thomas Wentworth," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00331.html.
Chicago Style Entry Link
Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. Massachusetts In Mourning: A Sermon, Preached in Worcester, on Sunday, June 4, 1854. Boston: J. Munroe, 1854.
view record
Higginson, Mary Thacher, ed. Letters and Journals of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1846-1906. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921. view record
Higginson, Mary Thacher. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Story of His Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914. view record
Poole, W. Scott. "Memory and the Abolitionist Heritage: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and the Uncertain Meaning of the Civil War." Civil War History 51, no. 2 (2005): 202-217. view record
Renehan, Edward J., Jr. The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired with John Brown. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. view record
Rossbach, Jeffery S. Ambivalent Conspirators: John Brown, the Secret Six, and a Theory of Slave Violence. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Higginson, Thomas Wentworth," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/5892.