The Black Hearts of Men by John Stauffer
Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race

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At a time when slavery was spreading and the country was steeped in racism, two white men and two black men overcame social barriers and mistrust to form a unique alliance that sought nothing less than the end of all evil. Drawing on the largest extant bi-racial correspondence in the Civil War era, John Stauffer braids together these men's struggles to reconcile ideals of justice with the reality of slavery and oppression. Who could imagine that Gerrit Smith, one of the richest men in the country, would give away his wealth to the poor and ally himself with Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave? And why would James McCune Smith, the most educated black man in the country, link arms with John Brown, a bankrupt entrepreneur, along with the others? Distinguished by their interracial bonds, they shared a millennialist vision of a new world where everyone was free and equal.

As the nation headed toward armed conflict, these men waged their own war by establishing model interracial communities, forming a new political party, and embracing violence. Their revolutionary ethos bridged the divide between the sacred and the profane, black and white, masculine and feminine, and civilization and savagery that had long girded western culture. In so doing, it embraced a malleable and "black-hearted" self that was capable of violent revolt against a slaveholding nation, in order to usher in a kingdom of God on earth. In tracing the rise and fall of their prophetic vision and alliance, Stauffer reveals how radical reform helped propel the nation toward war even as it strove to vanquish slavery and preserve the peace.

About John Stauffer

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John Stauffer has published numerous articles on photography and social reform in America, and is the recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, The Pew Program in Religion and American History, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. His forthcoming book, The Black Hearts of Men, won the 1999 Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for the best dissertation in American Studies from the American Studies Association. He is Assistant Professor of English, History and Literature at Harvard University.
Published June 30, 2009 by Harvard University Press. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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A thoughtful work of history restores African-Americans to a central place in the abolitionist movement.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Black Hearts of Men: Radi...

Publishers Weekly

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Two of the four "passionate outsiders" (which would have been a better title) presented here were black: Frederick Douglass and doctor-scholar James McCune Smith. Two were white: John Brown

Nov 12 2001 | Read Full Review of The Black Hearts of Men: Radi...

Publishers Weekly

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Brown's Harper's Ferry raid was discussed beforehand by all the men, but the actual act dimmed the revolutionary fervor of all who remained (Brown was executed) and probably made for the first, albeit unofficial, casualties of the Civil War.

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The Root

“Why should a good cause be less wisely conducted?” (Douglass and most other observers ignored blacks’ service in both the Union and Confederate navies from the beginning of the war.) In refusing to use blacks as soldiers and laborers, the Lincoln administration was “fighting the rebels with only...

Jan 20 2015 | Read Full Review of The Black Hearts of Men: Radi...

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