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Wendell Phillips, Social Justice, and the Power of the Past

Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World

384 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 14 halftones

ebook available

Slavery Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807164037 / November 2016

Born into an elite Boston family and a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, white Massachusetts aristocrat Wendell Phillips’s path seemed clear. Yet he rejected his family’s and society’s expectations and gave away most of his great wealth by the time of his death in 1884. Instead he embraced the most incendiary causes of his era and became a radical advocate for abolitionism and reform. Only William Lloyd Garrison rivaled Phillips’s importance to the antislavery and reform movements, and no one equaled his eloquence or intellectual depth. His presence on the lecture circuit brought him great celebrity both in America and in Europe and helped ensure that his reputation as an advocate for social justice extended for generations after his death.

In Wendell Phillips, Social Justice, and the Power of the Past, the world’s leading Phillips scholars explore the themes and ideas that animated this activist and his colleagues. These essays shed new light on the reform movement after the Civil War, especially regarding Phillips’s sustained role in Native American rights and the labor movement, subjects largely neglected by contemporary historical literature. In this collection, Phillips’s views on matters related to race, ethnicity, gender, and class serve as a lens through which the contributors examine crucial social justice questions that remain powerful to this day. Tackling a range of subjects that emerged during Phillips’scareer, from the effectiveness of agitation, the dilemmas of democratic politics, and antislavery constitutional theory, to religion, violence, interracial friendships, women’s rights, Native American rights, labor rights, and historical memory, these essays offer a portrait of a man whose deep sense of fairness and justice shaped the course of American history.



Introduction: Tribune of the People (Donald Yacovone)
1. Wendell Phillips Is the Subtlest, Stubbornest Fact of the Times: Abolition’s
Golden Trumpet and the Fall of the Slaveholders’ Republic (James Brewer Stewart)
2. The Transatlantic Mind of Wendell Phillips and the Problem of Democracy
in America (W. Caleb McDaniel)
3. A Puritan Radical: Wendell Phillips’s New England Religion (Dan McKanan)
4. Wendell Phillips, the Rule of Law, and Antislavery Violence (Dean Grodzins)
5. Comfortable in His Own Skin: Wendell Phillips and Racial Egalitarianism (James Brewer Stewart)
6. Wendell Phillips, the Constitution, and Constitutional Politics
before the Civil War (Michael Les Benedict)
7. Wendell Phillips and Transatlantic Radicalism: Democracy, Capitalism,
and the American Labor Movement (Peter Wirzbicki)
8. The People Coming to Power!: Wendell Phillips, Benjamin F. Butler, and
the Politics of Labor Reform (Millington W. Bergeson-Lockwood)
9. The Rights of Others: Wendell Phillips and Women’s Rights (Hélène Quanquin)
10. Wendell Phillips and the American Indian (Angela F. Murphy)
11. Race, Radicalism, and Remembering Wendell Phillips (Donald Yacovone)
12. The Phillips Community of Minneapolis: Historical Memory and the Quest
for Social Justice (David Moore, Harvey M. Winje, and Susan Ann Gustsus in
consultation with James Brewer Stewart)

A J AISÈIRITHE is director of the Wendell Phillips Bicentennial Project.

DONALD YACOVONE is an associate at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

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