Current Issue Article Abstracts
Summer 2018, Vol. 38.2
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This article examines the roles of black and mixed-race operatives in the criminal human trafficking networks that kidnapped and consigned to slavery thousands of free people of color in the early nineteenth century. The first section explores the distinctive abilities, modus operandi, and motivations of these unexpected and largely overlooked conductors on this Reverse Underground Railroad. The second section triangulates their behavior not only against that of confidence men and counterfeiters working in the shadows of the emerging capitalist economy in the early republic, but also in relationship to that of the many African-descended men and women in the long history of American slavery whose actions thwarted other black people's dreams of liberty. The final section interrogates the distinctive ways in which free black families, neighborhoods, and communities responded to the threat posed by kidnappers of color. It argues that the efforts of black urban dwellers to publicly denounce, promptly apprehend, and violently punish by extralegal means these pernicious predators served to elaborate a new form of direct antislavery action, an early and formative species of the sort of 'practical abolition' activities more typically associated with the aftermath of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
Andrew Jackson's 1845 bequest of a gold box to the New Yorker "most valiant in defense of his country ad our country's rights excited and troubled New Yorkers and indeed many other Americans. Who was the bravest New Yorker? That question proved difficult, if not impossible, to answer, and neither New York City nor the eventual recipient escaped with reputations intact. Indeed, the 1857 campaign to award the box roiled editors, politicos, soldiers, and civilians, underscoring valor's multi-faceted character. Politics ultimately trumped character to highlight the contested (and elusive) definition of what precisely constituted valor.
M. Scott Heerman
This article looks at the history of kidnapping in Illinois to trace the development of an antislavery politics in the state and to complicate conventional histories about the rise of the Republican Party. Kidnapping cases brought out tepid allies for African Americans in unexpected places: the local press in southern Illinois publicized kidnapping cases, local groups acted as search and rescue parties, and politicians in minor posts, and occasionally in high elected office, acted to protect African Americans in the state. Many of these people never espoused an antislavery politics or embraced abolitionism. However, they worked to protect free men and women from captivity and enslavement. By joining the struggle against slaveholders' power, even tangentially, Illinois residents took part in a larger politics of slavery and antislavery between the 1830s and the U.S. Civil War. Contesting kidnappings contributed to a political awakening in the state, which helped to advance a wider politics of antislavery in Illinois. By examining the history of kidnapping largely before the 1850s, when the foundations of the Republican party had yet to take shape, but abolitionists and antislavery activists were organizing with increasing power, it is possible to identify a longer and more diverse origin to rise of antislavery politics in the state.
Joy M. Giguere
When the Rural Cemetery Movement began with the establishment of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1831, the new institutions served the needs of the living as much as for the dead. While providing ample space for burials, the beautifully landscaped environments offered to visitors the opportunity to enjoy "nature" in a park-like setting. Established in the years prior to the development of large public parks, rural cemeteries were experimental public spaces in which people had to navigate what might be considered proper versus improper behaviors. Newspapers and journals would prove instrumental in exposing visitors' disregard for propriety and the efforts by cemetery proprietors to curb misbehavior would lay the groundwork for the establishment of rigidly enforced regulations during the public parks movement in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Philip Pendleton Barbour in Jacksonian America: An Old Republican in King Andrew's Court by William S. Belko, and: John Pendleton Kennedy: Early American Novelist, Whig Statesman, and Ardent Nationalist by Andrew R. Black (review)