Stanley Harrold

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Within the American antislavery movement, abolitionists were distinct from others in the movement in advocating, on the basis of moral principle, the immediate emancipation of slaves and equal rights for black people. Instead of focusing on the ""immediatists"" as products of northern culture, as many previous historians have done, Stanley Harrold examines their involvement with antislavery action in the South--particularly in the region that bordered the free states. How, he asks, did antislavery action in the South help shape abolitionist beliefs and policies in the period leading up to the Civil War? Harrold explores the interaction of northern abolitionist, southern white emancipators, and southern black liberators in fostering a continuing antislavery focus on the South, and integrates southern antislavery action into an understanding of abolitionist reform culture. He discusses the impact of abolitionist missionaries, who preached an antislavery gospel to the enslaved as well as to the free. Harrold also offers an assessment of the impact of such activities on the coming of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

He is most convincing about the singular role that Southern abolitionists and Northern ones operating in the slaveholding region played in shaping the crusade, a topic long misperceived. Those who study American reform will need this revisionist work. -- Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida

Harrold reminds historians of antebellum reform that a number of Northern abolitionists left the comfort of middle-class parlors to join coadjutors in the South and risk violence, imprisonment, and death. . . . Argues forcefully that abolitionism must be viewed from the perspective of the contested Southern borderlands. -- Civil War History

Harrold’s bold, revisionist account of abolitionism in the antebellum period challenges the overwhelming emphasis in abolitionist scholarship on the movement’s northern, and specifically New England, origins and influences. -- Florida Historical Quarterly

Assigns a crucial role to southern abolitionists in shaping policy and causing proslavery forces in the South to react, eventually to secede from the Union. -- Georgia Historical Quarterly

This is a path-breaking work that will significantly alter interpretations of abolitionism. -- James L. Huston, Oklahoma State University

Forces the reader to reopen a number of crucial questions concerning antislavery activities across the spectrum of the movement. -- JASAT

Challenges fundamental historiographical assumptions regarding the abolitionists’ impact on the southern states and their role in causing the Civil War. -- Journal of American History

A thoroughly researched, well-written, and thought provoking study that should take its place among required reading in the study of American abolitionism. -- Southern Historian

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Antislavery movements, Abolitionists, Southern States


United States History

The Abolitionists and the South, 1831-1861
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