Review of Herbert Aptheker, Abolition: A Revolutionary Movement
The Abolition movement was the first attack on the treatment of slaves and the enslavement of the entire black race in America. The Abolitionist led their movement with the basic idea of terminating the power of the slaveholding class, who ruled everything from political parties to every branch of the Federal government. They also had control over the domestic and foreign policies of the nation. This gave them the power to have control over the ideological structure of society. The only way to terminate the power of these slaveholders was the “elimination of the property upon which its power rests.” The book focuses on two fundamental concepts of Abolitionism: (1) its revolutionary nature, and (2) its organization. Throughout the book the many Abolitionists and their attempts at dismantling the institution of slavery were discussed. It depicts how widespread of a movement this really was by showing the diversity of people who tried to make this movement a reality.
Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 31, 1915. Accompanying his father on a business trip to Alabama, he learned of the Jim Crow Laws in the South which he found to be troubling. Here he learned first-hand the oppression of the African Americans and this is what fuels most of his works. He attended Columbia University in New York, where he obtained his Bachelor’s, Master, and Ph.D. in sociology. He taught at Bryn Mawr College, City University of New York, Yale University, UC Berkeley, Santa Clara University, Humbolt University, and the Law School at UC Berkeley. He has written more than 50 books, mostly in the fields of African-American history and general U.S. history. Some of his works include, The Negro in the Civil War, The Negro in the Abolitionist Movement, American Negro Slave Revolts, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, also 38 volumes of The Collected Published Writings of W.E.B. Du Bois. He died at age 87 on March 17, 2003, in Mountain View, California.
The first chapter of the book is titled Early Seeding of Abolition. It begins by indicating how almost all leaders of the American Revolution, including George Washington and John Adams to Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, all indicated their hostility toward slavery. Even Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton all held leading offices in emancipation organizations. More people were coming opposed to the idea of slavery. Those who were opposed to slavery in the south were being forced to leave and go north so that the southern slaveholders could maintain their dominance. They even restricted some of the rights of the antislavery men and women including freedoms of speech, press and petition, their livelihoods were even at stake. Among those people who left were many antislavery activists who would become very influential in the Abolitionist movement. Men such as James Galliland moved north to Ohio and eventually became president of the American Anti-Slavery Society. There were also many men who were not born in the south but still became key figures in the history of antislavery agitation. Benjamin Lundy was born in New Jersey but after moving to Virginia and saw how blacks were treated he migrated to Ohio to begin a lifelong antislavery and antiracism work. Lundy even established the National Anti-Slavery Tract Society and subsequently was elected manager of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The slaveholders of the South were becoming increasingly concerned with the fact that the Abolitionist played a huge role in destroying their source of immense income. The rapid increase of the number of slaves and the cotton production of the South over a short period of time brought an economic boom that was now at a major potential risk due to this movement. All of these factors cause a major turmoil between the North and the South eventually leading to the Civil War.
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