This course examines three leading antislavery figures of the Civil War era. The three took action against the slave power’s increasing dominance of the U. S. government–Lincoln through politics, Douglass through authorship and lecturing, and Brown through violence. Douglass’s autobiographies, which span much of the nineteenth century, provide a vivid record of slavery, abolitionism, and Reconstruction. His speeches and journalism illustrate his unceasing commitment to the cause of African Americans. Equally devoted to that cause was John Brown, of whom Douglass said of, “I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” We will trace Brown’s evolution, from his days as an Underground Railroad operative through his antislavery battles in Kansas to his doomed raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which he hoped would lead to the fall of slavery but which instead resulted in his martyrdom on the gallows. Lincoln worked within the political system to end slavery. His speeches, debates, and public letters stand as timeless declarations of freedom and equality. His firm leadership of the nation during its most divided time established him as American’s greatest president. Despite their different approaches to slavery, these three antislavery leaders were connected in surprising ways. This course explores both the linkages and dissimilarities between the three. It also considers them against the background of the American Revolution, the Constitution, proslavery and antislavery thought, and cultural phenomena such as religion and popular literature. We will read key primary and secondary texts related to the three, including a definitive biography of each.

History 75200 – Warriors Against Slavery: Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass

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