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


Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
5.76 X 8.8 X 0.97 inches | 1.17 pounds

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About the Author

John Stauffer is Professor of English, of American Studies, and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University. He is the author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.


The Black Hearts of Men is a richly interdisciplinary study, examining portraiture, literature, religion, intellectual biography, and the wider social and cultural context provided by antebellum America...Many avenues for further scholarship are suggested by this discussion...Stauffer does capture the potential for revolutionary change in the antebellum United States embodied in the radical abolitionists, and culminating in the state violence of the civil war. The work provides useful intellectual/political biographies of the key actors for the period of study, suggesting that their methods, motivations, and self-image were far from simple.--Fionnghuala Sweeney "History "
More than an engaging history of antislavery, this volume, with its abundant use of primary sources, restores James McCune Smith and Gerrit Smith to their historical positions as preeminent radical abolitionists and pioneer fighters against racism. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-- (11/01/2001)
Stauffer examines the small group of friends and colleagues who gave the abolitionist movement its focus and voice...Stauffer charts their collective efforts to convert their compatriots to the abolitionist cause, which led, he writes, to both successes and failures: the effort to emancipate slaves led eventually to war, he observes, but also in a 'century of horrible racism and racial oppression following the war [that] stemmed in part from the savage violence that brought slavery to an end'...A welcome addition to the historical literature.-- (11/15/2001)
Stauffer offers an account of these four lives joined for a historical moment by 'their vision of a sacred, sin-free, and pluralist society, as well as by their willingness to use violence to effect it.' Stauffer shows how the four worked together on temperance and feminist issues, party building, and other political work along with their antislavery activities, exploring the practical and ideological glue that held them together. A splendidly illustrated excursion into the American fascination with daguerreotype shows the four using that form to further their public image...[Black Hearts of Men] offers an intense look at the mechanics of freedom.-- (11/12/2001)
The Black Hearts of Men is a story of politics, religion, sin, guilt, passion, murder and expiation. It begins in innocence and good intentions and ends in bloodshed and madness...Stauffer knows what he has with this remarkable story. He deftly outlines the thinking of his subjects, and is especially good at showing the links between their religious beliefs and their politics.-- (03/24/2002)
Stauffer intertwines the antislavery activities of Frederick Douglas, James McCune Smith, John Brown, and Gerrit Smith. These four men...were deeply religious reformers who first sought to utilize peaceful means to end slavery and promote racial integration in antebellum America. Failing to achieve these objectives, they adopted a militant position by organizing the Radical Abolition Party endorsing violence, justifying their actions in the name of righteousness...The book expands our knowledge of the changing nature of antislavery and antebellum reform as the nation approached the Civil War.-- (10/01/2002)