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More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889

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A major new narrative account of the long struggle of Northern activists-both black and white, famous and obscure-to establish African Americans as free citizens, from abolitionism through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and its demise Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is generally understood as the moment African Americans became free, and Reconstruction as the u A major new narrative account of the long struggle of Northern activists-both black and white, famous and obscure-to establish African Americans as free citizens, from abolitionism through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and its demise Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is generally understood as the moment African Americans became free, and Reconstruction as the ultimately unsuccessful effort to extend that victory by establishing equal citizenship. In More Than Freedom, award-winning historian Stephen Kantrowitz boldly redefines our understanding of this entire era by showing that the fight to abolish slavery was always part of a much broader campaign to establish full citizenship for African Americans and find a place to belong in a white republic. More Than Freedom chronicles this epic struggle through the lived experiences of black and white activists in and around Boston, including both famous reformers such as Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner and lesser-known but equally important figures like the journalist William Cooper Nell and the ex-slaves Lewis and Harriet Hayden. While these freedom fighters have traditionally been called abolitionists, their goals and achievements went far beyond emancipation. They mobilized long before they had white allies to rely on and remained militant long after the Civil War ended. These black freedmen called themselves "colored citizens" and fought to establish themselves in American public life, both by building their own networks and institutions and by fiercely, often violently, challenging proslavery and inegalitarian laws and prejudice. But as Kantrowitz explains, they also knew that until the white majority recognized them as equal participants in common projects they would remain a suspect class. Equal citizenship meant something far beyond freedom: not only full legal and political rights, but also acceptance, inclusion and respect across the color line. Even though these reformers ultimately failed to remake the nation in the way they hoped, their struggle catalyzed the arrival of Civil War and left the social and political landscape of the Union forever altered. Without their efforts, war and Reconstruction could hardly have begun. Bringing a bold new perspective to one of our nation's defining moments, More Than Freedom helps to explain the extent and the limits of the so-called freedom achieved in 1865 and the legacy that endures today.


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A major new narrative account of the long struggle of Northern activists-both black and white, famous and obscure-to establish African Americans as free citizens, from abolitionism through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and its demise Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is generally understood as the moment African Americans became free, and Reconstruction as the u A major new narrative account of the long struggle of Northern activists-both black and white, famous and obscure-to establish African Americans as free citizens, from abolitionism through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and its demise Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is generally understood as the moment African Americans became free, and Reconstruction as the ultimately unsuccessful effort to extend that victory by establishing equal citizenship. In More Than Freedom, award-winning historian Stephen Kantrowitz boldly redefines our understanding of this entire era by showing that the fight to abolish slavery was always part of a much broader campaign to establish full citizenship for African Americans and find a place to belong in a white republic. More Than Freedom chronicles this epic struggle through the lived experiences of black and white activists in and around Boston, including both famous reformers such as Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner and lesser-known but equally important figures like the journalist William Cooper Nell and the ex-slaves Lewis and Harriet Hayden. While these freedom fighters have traditionally been called abolitionists, their goals and achievements went far beyond emancipation. They mobilized long before they had white allies to rely on and remained militant long after the Civil War ended. These black freedmen called themselves "colored citizens" and fought to establish themselves in American public life, both by building their own networks and institutions and by fiercely, often violently, challenging proslavery and inegalitarian laws and prejudice. But as Kantrowitz explains, they also knew that until the white majority recognized them as equal participants in common projects they would remain a suspect class. Equal citizenship meant something far beyond freedom: not only full legal and political rights, but also acceptance, inclusion and respect across the color line. Even though these reformers ultimately failed to remake the nation in the way they hoped, their struggle catalyzed the arrival of Civil War and left the social and political landscape of the Union forever altered. Without their efforts, war and Reconstruction could hardly have begun. Bringing a bold new perspective to one of our nation's defining moments, More Than Freedom helps to explain the extent and the limits of the so-called freedom achieved in 1865 and the legacy that endures today.

30 review for More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    This is an excellent book filled with important and compelling stories. However, it took me a VERY long time to read because it is quite dense and dry. Momentous or shocking events somehow do not leap off the page. Many unfamiliar people and events are packed into every chapter so making connections and absorbing the information is a challenge. The book would not be as informative or rich but reducing the level of detail would have made it more accessible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    About the role of Black leadership in the abolition movement and in uplift activities after the Civil War. Not always an entertaining book, but the subject matter is important and not always covered.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Graham

    The primary focus on the Boston black community serves the first third of the book very well, given the Boston prominence in anti-slavery activities. The cast of characters who pass in and out of the community provides a good overview of conditions throughout the US. For instance, the story of Lewis, Heather and Jo Hayden, with the rise out of slavery in Kentucky, their escape and the tension of living free in the North while a fugitive, and the eventual secure settlement in Boston works well as The primary focus on the Boston black community serves the first third of the book very well, given the Boston prominence in anti-slavery activities. The cast of characters who pass in and out of the community provides a good overview of conditions throughout the US. For instance, the story of Lewis, Heather and Jo Hayden, with the rise out of slavery in Kentucky, their escape and the tension of living free in the North while a fugitive, and the eventual secure settlement in Boston works well as an example. The small size of the Northern black population ensures that most of the major names pass through or touch the narrative naturally. The middle third also works well, given the role of Massachusetts in forming black troops, the presence of Boston residents in various locations throughout the South, and the political importance of white Bostonians. The book becomes less compelling in the post-war period, as Boston and its black community becomes less central to the black experience in the United States. Kantrowitz generally does a good job of connecting matters, but the focus of events is largely elsewhere. Still, well worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This is a comprehensive and approachable history of black activism in Boston from the 1820s through the beginning of the 20th century. The stories of several prominent, black (and male) activists run throughout the book. Kanntrowitz argues against calling this men "black abolitionists", instead suggesting that their reform program was substantially broader and deeper. Party politics makes up a decent chunk of the book, but the text also covers associations like churches, the Freemasons, and more This is a comprehensive and approachable history of black activism in Boston from the 1820s through the beginning of the 20th century. The stories of several prominent, black (and male) activists run throughout the book. Kanntrowitz argues against calling this men "black abolitionists", instead suggesting that their reform program was substantially broader and deeper. Party politics makes up a decent chunk of the book, but the text also covers associations like churches, the Freemasons, and more. Likewise, the book only briefly mentions MA's black troops. However, Kantrowitz does emphasize the ambivalence Boston activists felt regarding military service under unequal terms. This is an easy to read book that does a nice job rejecting 1863 as a hard break in African American activism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Cooper

    Good subject matter and there were some interesting stories/bits of information, but I didn't think the book was very well written. It seemed to jump around chronologically too much and I never got a great grasp on the "main" characters. I would have preferred a clearer narrative that flowed better from beginning to end. Instead, this book seemed very choppy and caused me to not learn as much from it as I should have. As for the author's main arguments and analysis, I think they were very interes Good subject matter and there were some interesting stories/bits of information, but I didn't think the book was very well written. It seemed to jump around chronologically too much and I never got a great grasp on the "main" characters. I would have preferred a clearer narrative that flowed better from beginning to end. Instead, this book seemed very choppy and caused me to not learn as much from it as I should have. As for the author's main arguments and analysis, I think they were very interesting and legitimate.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan Gorman

    Superb. The story of how free black activists helped end slavery and achieve legal rights, only to see their dreams of equal citizenship collapse during Reconstruction. This history has a lot of relevance today, given the Black Lives Matter movement and questions about a need for another war on poverty. Stephen Kantrowitz is a historian to watch.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ari Weinberg

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Browne

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

  11. 5 out of 5

    Komal Nadeem

  12. 4 out of 5

    Evan Turiano

  13. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kidada

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  16. 4 out of 5

    James N

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jill Sim

  18. 5 out of 5

    Graeme

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brook

  21. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Tyson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Cherne

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris Lemor

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roger Bridges

  25. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Ward

  27. 5 out of 5

    Henry

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Logan Barrett

  30. 4 out of 5

    Holly

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