Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Abolitionism: a Study Guide

We think it would be useful to study American abolitionism as a home-grown radical movement launched in inauspicious times. To further that end, we have prepared a reading list and a set of questions.[1] For hard-to-find works, we can help with copying and scanning. We want this study guide to promote a wider conversation about these issues, and we will to do what we can to make that happen, including putting people and groups in touch with each other. Write to editor@hardcrackers.com.

Things to Read

Noel’s Introduction to Lesson of the Hour, the collection of speeches of Wendell Phillips published by Charles H. Kerr. A survey of events, identifying strategic questions.[2] We also recommend the first three speeches in the volume. The entire book can be obtained from AK Press. (There is a glitsch on the amazon listing, making it impossible to order it through amazon.)

Aileen Kraditor, Means and Ends in American Abolitionism. Strategic disagreements among abolitionists. Used copies available $4-$6.

Albert Fried, John Brown’s Journey: Notes and Reflections on His America and MineThe writer’s discovery of Brown while participating in the movements of the late 60s. Chapter 5 and 6 are especially useful. Used copies available for about $4 each.

Dorothy Sterling, Ahead of Her Time: Abby Kelley & the Politics of Antislavery. A biography of one of the most dedicated and radical among the abolitionists. Chapters 4,6,7,9,10,12,14 and 15 are especially useful for providing a picture of what the abolitionists did from day to day. Used copies available for $4.

David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights.  Chapters 6 (on Brown’s relationships with black people), 16 (on Brown’s relationship to the rest of the abolitionists) and 17 (on his legacy, including a critique of Walt Whitman).

C.L.R. James, American Civilization, especially pages 85-98. The best. Noel drew heavily on it for his Introduction to Lesson of the Hour.[3]

W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America, Chapters 1-5 (pages 3-127).

Robin Blackburn, An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln. The most important documents.

David Roediger, Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All

 

Questions

What were the essential differences between abolitionists and others with anti-slavery sentiments?

What were the most important divisions among abolitionists?

What was Free-Soilism? What was its relation to abolitionism?

Who was right, the Garrisonians or the “political” abolitionists?

What were the relationships between white abolitionists and free blacks?

What were the relationships between abolitionists and slaves?

What role did the abolitionist movement play in ending slavery?

What lessons for today can we learn from the abolitionists?

Marx and Engels, who wrote brilliantly on slavery and the Civil War, abandoned these topics shortly after the War ended. Like northern white labor, they did not see freed slaves as workers or view post-War struggles in the south as part of the working-class movement.[4]

Notes.

[1] We are encouraged by a recent column by Linda Hirshman in the Washington Post,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/to-resist-a-trump-presidency-ask-what-would-the-abolitionists-do/2016/11/18/2615a136-a767-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html?postshare=531480437090958&tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.bd5d9c7fbfb2

[2] It is available, slightly abridged: http://www.hardcrackers.com/lesson-of-the-hour-introduction/

[3] http://www.hardcrackers.com/clr-james-on-abolitionism/

[4] In a letter to Meyer and Vogt on April 9, 1870 (the peak of Reconstruction), Marx wrote, “A coalition of the German workers with the Irish workers (and of course also with the English and American workers who are prepared to accede to it) is the greatest achievement you could bring about now.” In another to Engels on July 25, 1877 (during the Great Railroad Strike), he predicted that capital would drive black labor into an alliance with white. In a letter to Schluter on March 20, 1892, Engels surveyed divisions among various nationalities comprising the working class in New York, failing to mention blacks, although he did refer to “John Chinaman… who far surpasses them all in his ability to live on next to nothing.” On Dec. 2, 1893, in a letter to Sorge, he spoke of the divisions between native-born and immigrant workers and among the latter, adding (as if by afterthought), “And then the Negroes.” These letters can be found at https://www.marxists.org/.

October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail