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The first constitutionalism was a gender exclusionary constitutionalism, which simply took a foundational gendered political order for granted, drawing from Enlightenment theories prevalent at the time. This chapter explains how the marital contract and the separate spheres tradition excluded women from the realm of equal citizenship rights despite constitutional appeals to the notion of equality. It shows how women were active in revolutionary moments and also seized to intervene in constitution-making from the very start and to advance various causes (e.g., temperance, female suffrage, abolitionism). The chapter then proceeds to show how women eventually conquered voting rights and the recognition of constitutional sex equality, along with provisions protecting motherhood and the family, first during interwar constitutionalism and then in post–World War II constitutionalism, and shows how none of this was sufficient to tackle the legacy of the separate spheres tradition, especially given the cultural hegemony of the breadwinner family model in the postwar years.
From his earliest publications in the 1730s, Johnson expressed unwavering abhorrence of slavery as well as antagonism to the racial division of humankind. Even with the rise of abolitionist writing in the 1760s, however, Johnson’s public statements on these issues are scattered through several works or recorded by Boswell in the Life of Johnson, who himself opposed the abolition of the slave trade. We can explain Johnson’s failure to intervene more fully and publicly in the debate over slavery by considering that he feared connections between abolitionism and extensions of “human rights” to a broader platform of political reform. His longest statement on the status of slaves in Britain in Boswell’s Life is carefully worded and legally narrow compared with the more sweeping condemnations of slavery in contemporary abolitionist publications. On the issue of “race,” however, Johnson remained committed to the idea of the common and equal humanity of all people.
This essay recovers how David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829–30) likely played a significant role in Frederick Douglass’s frustrated introduction to literacy in Baltimore. By recognizing this important but overlooked intersection of two generations of Black antislavery activists at a turning point in the movement, the essay complicates our thinking about both the effects of Walker’s fiery Appeal and Douglass’s relationship to violent self-defense and resistance. More broadly, it examines the frequent linkage of print to violence and the politicization of print as a powerful and contested form of activism in the histories of US antislavery and antiracism.
The system of dehumanization through the transatlantic slave trade and chattel slavery drew upon racism as its economic and religious rationale. White Protestants, who predominated among the earliest white settlers, developed their theology and social ethics in a concretized context of Black subjugation. The vast majority of the enslaved, exposed to Protestantism in British North America, never abandoned sensibilities derived from their African religious background. Postbellum and twentieth-century society saw a growth in missions, Social Gospel work, church-building, the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, activism and justice movements, and political involvement among Black Christians – often resisted by white Christians every step of the way. Today’s Black church increasingly identifies with the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of critical race theory, which posits that racism pervades sacred and secular structures and systems in American society.
This study investigates the religious origins of the American temperance and antislavery movements in New York State. We introduce new county-level longitudinal data between 1828 and 1838 to document the onset and growth of New York temperance and antislavery societies during the movements’ early stages. Data are compiled from numerous historical sources and document counts of temperance societies in 55 New York counties in years 1828, 1829, 1831, 1833, and 1834; and county-level counts of antislavery societies in years 1835, 1836, 1837, and 1838. The early growth of temperance and antislavery societies across New York counties are examined as outcomes of state building, market changes, and religious activism associated with the Second Great Awakening. We hypothesize that religious activism was positively associated with the establishment of temperance and antislavery societies in New York counties between 1828 and 1834 and between 1835 and 1838, respectively, as well as positively associated with growth in temperance and antislavery societies during these times. Results support our hypotheses with findings suggesting that evangelist activities were substantially influencing both the onset and growth of temperance and antislavery societies during the early stages of these social movements. The evidence is consistent with a “life politics” perspective of social movements and with the argument that US temperance and abolitionism were confessional protests with deep ties to the Second Great Awakening.
This chapter seeks to illuminate the development of racialized subjectivities as an historical problem in nineteenth-century Brazil. It analyzes the letters and writings of the Afro-descendant engineer and abolitionist André Rebouças (1838–1898), with special attention to the role of racial silence in Rebouças’ personal diary and in the edited papers of his father, lawyer and statesman Antônio Pereira Rebouças (1798–1880). The self-narratives André Rebouças left to posterity are powerful testimony to the significance of transnational politics for universalist Black intellectuals in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. In exploring them, this chapter illuminates the racialized subjectivization engendered by the stigma of slavery and portrays the ways in which its politicization was shaped by a collective transnational experience.
Focusing on the life trajectory of Brazilian engineer Teodoro Sampaio, this chapter discusses the possibilities for social transformation available to men of color during and after Brazilian abolition. Sampaio lived through a time when the dismantling of slavery coincided with a racialization of social status, justified by the postulates of scientific racism. His trajectory thus illuminates how an educated son of a freed mother could make his way through a society that was reinventing socio-racial hierarchies even as slavery lost its legitimacy. This chapter aims to elucidate the intricate network of relationships and endeavors engendered by a pardo, born on a large slave property, who managed to become an engineer and manumit his three brothers, who were enslaved on the same plantation where Sampaio himself was raised free. Based on Sampaio’s autobiographical texts, books, articles, and private correspondence – as well as on what his contemporaries wrote about him – this chapter will reflect on what we can learn from Teodoro Sampaio’s life about what it meant to be a free, lettered pardo man during the dismantling of Brazilian slavery.
This chapter explores the history of Recife’s abolitionist newspaper O Homem and the bold racial politics of its founder, offering a fresh perspective on how the ferment of the abolition debates set in motion important shifts in racial subjectivities. Yet O Homem’s story calls attention to the important nineteenth-century history of racial silencing, which was an ideology and cultural process that shaped power relations. The paper’s founder, Felipe Neri Collaço, illuminated the racialized work that this ideology did in suppressing debates on hierarchy, politics, and, by extension, slavery. O Homem’s history also helps us better understand how the “breaking of this silence” sparked noticeable shifts in racial subjectivities, thus rewriting the racial narrative.
Historians have been slow to examine the political ramifications of the consumer revolution. Europe and the Americas experienced intense political strife in the eighteenth century, culminating in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and Latin American revolutions. Did the consumer revolution (lowercase “r”) have anything to do with these political Revolutions (uppercase “R”)? This chapter provides a framework for understanding how consumer goods became implicated in revolutionary movements. It argues that activists during the age of Revolution politicized consumer goods in three ways. First, by protesting against the “despotic” commercial regulations and consumption taxes at the heart of imperial political economies, activists politicized colonial goods, such as tea and tobacco. They demanded that such “necessities” circulate freely and at low cost. Second, citizens imbued everyday objects with revolutionary meaning. Material objects like the tricolor cockade mediated revolutionary ideas and aspirations, enabling citizens to participate in and express their allegiance to (or rejection of) evolving political projects. Finally, consumer activism shaped debates on slavery. The enslaved of Haiti launched the era’s greatest attack on slavery, overthrowing a brutal system of production that provided Europeans with large quantities of colonial products. Further, abolitionists in Europe and North America protested slavery by abstaining from slave-produced sugar. They argued that consumers had the power to effect large-scale change through a new mode of collective action: the boycott.
The production, acquisition, and use of consumer goods defines our daily lives, and yet consumerism is seen as increasingly controversial. Movements for sustainable and ethical consumerism are gaining momentum alongside an awareness of how our choices in the marketplace can affect public issues. How did we get here? This volume advances a bold new interpretation of the 'consumer revolution' of the eighteenth century, when European elites, middling classes, and even certain labourers purchased unprecedented quantities of clothing, household goods, and colonial products. Michael Kwass adopts a global perspective that incorporates the expansion of European empires, the development of world trade, and the rise of plantation slavery in the Americas. Kwass analyses the emergence of Enlightenment material cultures, contentious philosophical debates on the morality of consumption, and new forms of consumer activism to offer a fresh interpretation of the politics of consumption in the age of abolitionism and the Atlantic Revolutions.
Chapter 5 describes the law regarding speech aimed at religion and morality. Against a backdrop of oppressive prosecutions and antiabolitionist violence, Massachusetts saw denials of the constitutionality of libel law and a rising insistence on individual rights to freedom of conscience and expression. Both the pornographic classic Fanny Hill and the first birth control texts became cheaply available in Massachusetts, and lawyers adapted the law to prosecute obscenity. Nova Scotia likely had fewer such texts, and outside Halifax legal actors also had fewer texts to refer to in drafting indictments. On the religious front, Nova Scotia’s basically voluntaristic environment made religion political, with the Anglican elite on the defensive, but disputes over belief reached neither the legislature nor courts. Massachusetts, however, gradually eliminated establishment, leaving winners and losers. Free Thinkers evoked concern, especially the Englishwoman Frances Wright, whose lectures challenged Christianity, capitalism, slavery and patriarchy. Many understood republican ideals as justifying majoritarian violence, a logic that did not resonate in Nova Scotia, where disputes centered instead on configurations of institutional power.
The third chapter explores slave flight to spaces of semi-formal freedom in the antebellum North. It analyzes why freedom seekers sought to risk their lives to escape the South rather than flee to nearby spaces of informal freedom; how they did so; their settlement processes; and how they fared in the legal quagmire of rendition and reenslavement. It begins with an examination of enslaved people's perilous northbound journeys, emphasizing the particular reasons some freedom seekers sought free soil and some semblance of legal freedom from slavery. It then delves into refugees' experiences settling in and sustaining themselves in the northern states, with an emphasis on their integration into northern free black communities. The chapter concludes with an extensive discussion of the ambiguous legal status of fugitive slaves in the Northern United States and how conflicts over legal rights and the conditions for rendition developed over time, often stimulating mass civil disobedience to federal fugitive slave laws and de facto protection from reenslavement.
This chapter examines the paradigmatic discourses about emotions of White abolitionism and during the “disintegration” of legal slavery in the Atlantic world. This chapter highlights the mutations of ideas of “feelings” in the "post-emancipation” era and their role in the continuation of slavery, while also addressing the escalation of emotional archetypes of race and slavery in twentieth-century media.
In the literature on transitional justice, there is disagreement about whether countries like the United States can be characterized as transitional societies. Though it is widely recognized that transitional justice mechanisms such as truth commissions and reparations can be used by Global North nations to address racial injustice, some consider societies to be transitional only when they are undergoing a formal democratic regime change. We conceptualize the political situation of low-income Black communities under the U.S. imprisonment and policing regime in terms of three criteria for identifying transitional contexts: normalized collective and political wrongdoing, pervasive structural inequality, and the failure of the rule of law. That these criteria are met, however, does not necessarily mean that a transition is taking place. Drawing on the American political development and abolition democracy literatures, we discuss what it would mean for the United States to transition out of its present imprisonment and policing regime. A transitional justice perspective shows the importance of not only pushing for truth and reparation, but for an actual transition.
During the American Revolution, abolitionism became a social movement for the first time. Amid their appeals for liberty and equality, Americans increasingly realized the contradictions of owning slaves, and even prominent Founding Father slaveholders spoke of the need to find ways to reform or phase out the institution. The first explicit abolitions in the world occurred amid the War of Independence. By the early republic, antislavery societies became numerous – though the cause’s momentum was thwarted in the closed-door Constitutional Convention and the rise of cotton in the American South in the 1790s motivated a new spread of slavery.
Antislavery agitation spread through reformers with American contacts, but Britain’s movement to abolish the slave trade became the largest social movement of the era. Publishing damning exposés of the traffic, lobbying Members of Parliament, and forming vibrant locals across the British isles, the movement sponsored massive petition-signings that (unlike preceding reform movements) mobilized across social class, while women were also mobilized for boycotting against slave-produced products. The movement only failed to produce immediate results due to a countermovement centered in the slave ports that raised counterpetitions and lobbied for British economic self-interest, particularly once war against Revolutionary France began in 1793.
The concluding two chapters take up cultural responses to the ongoing violence perpetuated by mass incarceration and the global cycles of warfare and terror. Dennis R. Childs examines narratives of immobility based on police and state violence, imprisonment, and detention and deportation at national borders. He argues that “anti-carceral hip-hop” is the “aesthetic practice [that] represents the quintessential storytelling method for those most commonly targeted for police killing and imprisonment.” Reading hip-hop narratives within a “long twenty-first century” of radical literary, political, and musical practices since the 1970s, he links recent works by Dead Prez, Reyna Grande, Ann Jaramillo, Kendrick Lamar, Monifa Love, Main Source, Invincible, and Askari X to those of James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Public Enemy, Chester Himes, George Jackson, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Assata Shakur, and Malcolm X.
The late 19th century emerged in reaction to the exploitative crop-lien system in the South and West and developed using the tools oc ooperative marketing, purchasing, and production. The movement shfited into politicsl with the foundation of the Populist party and the election campaign of Williams Jenning Bryan, when the fusion failed and Populism disappeared as a political movement.
Although enslaved Black women were marginalized and faced many obstacles to freedom during the Revolutionary era, they asserted their claims to freedom through fugitivity as they invoked the same philosophical arguments of liberty that White revolutionaries made in their own fierce struggle against oppression. At stake in this discussion of fugitive women is demonstrating that Black women’s resistance in the form of truancy and escape were central components of abolitionism during the Revolutionary Era. Thousands of women of diverse circumstances escaped bondage despite their status as mothers and wives. In fact, motherhood, freedom, love and family propelled Black women to escape bondage during the Revolutionary Era; a time when the chaos of war made women’s flight possible due to the breakdown of oversight and colonial authority.