Sources of Freedom Exercises

This chapter concentrates on the history of reform, including various communal endeavors, public institutions, abolitionism, and feminism. The chapter begins with the story of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Abby Kelley. The reform impulse is explored by looking at the nearly 100 reform communities, nearly all of which set out to reorganize society on a cooperative basis. As the reform movements took on more radical issues like prohibition, abolition, and pacifism, many Americans saw the reform impulse as an attack on their own freedom. The era also saw an increase in institution building, which was inspired by the conviction that those who passed through their doors could eventually be released to become productive, self-disciplined citizens.

The chapter then examines the crusade against slavery, as it took on many forms from colonization to immediate abolition. The antislavery movement sought to reinvigorate the idea of freedom as a truly universal entitlement and, at every opportunity, black abolitionists rejected the nation’s pretensions as a land of liberty. Also attempting to gain universal equality was the early women’s movement. Comparing the condition of women with that of slavery was a powerful rhetorical tool used by feminists and is illustrated in Angelina Grimke’s letter in The Liberator in this chapter’s Voices of Freedom.

The chapter concludes with the Seneca Falls Convention and with the split of the organized abolitionist movement into two wings in 1840 because of disputes over the proper role of women in antislavery work.

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