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Subversives: Antislavery Community in Washington, D.C., 1828--1865

Subversives: Antislavery Community in Washington, D.C., 1828--1865

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While many scholars have examined the slavery disputes in the halls of Congress, Subversives is the first history of practical abolitionism in the streets, homes, and places of business of the nation's capital. Historian Stanley Harrold looks beyond resolutions, platforms, and debates to describe how desperate African Americans--both free and slave--and sympathetic whites engaged in a dangerous day-to-day campaign to drive the "peculiar institution" out of Washington, D.C., and the Chesapeake region.

That slavery was both vulnerable and vicious in Washington is at the heart of Harrold's study. Northern and foreign visitors were outraged by its existence in the seat of American government. For the South, Washington was a vital stronghold at the section's border. As economic changes caused slavery's decline in the Chesapeake and masters dismembered slave families by selling them South, local African Americans sought and received the support of a small number of whites eager to strike a blow against slavery in a strategic and very symbolic setting. Together they formed a subversive community that flourished in and about the city from the late 1820s through the mid-1860s. Risking beatings, mob violence, imprisonment, and death, these men and women distributed abolitionist literature, purchased the freedom of slaves, sued to prevent families from being separated, and aided escape efforts.

Harrold overcomes the secrecy inherent to Washington's antislavery community to document its formation and activities with remarkable detail and -perception. He shows how slaveholders and their sympathizers fought to reinforce their hold on a system under attack and how the dissidents raised a -radical challenge to the existing social order simply by -engaging in interracial cooperation. While some -subversives held power as politicians and journalists, most were obscure individuals. Black and white women played an important role.

An illuminating study of a heretofore overlooked struggle, Subversives reveals a new dimension in resistance to slavery, nineteenth-century race relations, and the antebellum conflict over America's capital city.

Author: Stanley Harrold
Publisher: LSU Press
Published: 12/01/2002
Pages: 280
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.97lbs
Size: 9.18h x 6.54w x 0.85d
ISBN: 9780807128381

About the Author
Stanley Harrold is the author of American Abolitionists and The Abolitionists and the South, among other books, and a professor of history at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

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