Transcript below

Art denotes strategy, ingenuity, and imagination. Abolitionists of all stripes participated in the cause, prompted firstly by the refusal of African captives to abide slavery’s many violences. Enslaved people worked slowly, fought back, and set plantations aflame, giving pause to enslavers. They fellowshipped with one another and created kinship networks, despite all efforts to break their spirits and resolve to live and love. Self-liberated fugitives from slavery banded together as well as with freepersons to establish maroon, mocambo, and quilombo settlements in hills, valleys, swamps, and mountains. As instances of insurrection intensified on ships in the Middle Passage and across the Atlantic World, objections to the institution of slavery by social reformers and everyday citizens also increased, reaching fever pitch by a diversity of anti-slavery proponents in the nineteenth century. 

One of my favorite items in the abolitionism section is Edward Rushton’s “Expostulatory Letter to George Washington…” in which Rushton calls out Washington’s hypocrisy for sitting as president of a country that embraced the rhetoric of independence while himself being slaveholder. Rushton’s letter was returned to sender, so he decided to publish it to support the abolitionist cause in Britain and the United States instead. 

Another explosive item is The Productions of Mrs. Maria Stewart… Known for her sharp critiques of slavery and any hint of political aloofness among free Black people, Maria Stewart (1803-1879) was a teacher, lecturer, abolitionist, and proponent of women’s rights who worked closely with David Walker. In her 1833 speech “Address Delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston,” Stewart declared: “The unfriendly whites first drove the native American from his much loved home. Then they stole our fathers from their peaceful and quiet dwellings, and brought them hither, and made bond-men and bond-women of them and their little ones; they have obliged our brethren to labor, kept them in utter ignorance, nourished them in vice, and raised them in degradation; and now that we have enriched their soil, and filled their coffers, they say that we are not capable of becoming like white men, and that we never can rise to respectability in this country. They would drive us to a strange land. But before I go, the bayonet shall pierce me through. African rights and liberty is a subject that ought to fire the breast of every free man of color in these United States, and excite in his bosom a lively, deep, decided and heartfelt interest.” 

And finally, The Liberator newspaper was published regularly from 1831-1865 in Boston, Massachusetts, and distributed widely. Through appeals to the religious morals of its readers, the publisher and influential abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, printed and reprinted letters by everyday citizens and established abolitionist crusaders, sermons and essays that supported the cause, as well as updated readers about abolitionist activities across the United States. 

In 1832, Garrison co-founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society, expanding that organization into the American Anti-Slavery Society the following year to agitate for the immediate abolition of slavery. By 1838, the American Anti-Slavery Society boasted some 250,000 members across 1,350 local chapters and included such luminaries as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Lydia Maria Child, Charles Lenox Remond, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry Highland Garnet. 


End of Transcript

Installation Image by Roy Rochlin. Latimer/Edison Gallery, Schomburg Center