Race and Revolution

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Rowman & Littlefield, 1990 - History - 212 pages
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The most profound crisis of conscience for white Americans at the end of the eighteenth century became their most tragic failure. Race and Revolution is a trenchant study of the revolutionary generation's early efforts to right the apparent contradiction of slavery and of their ultimate compromises that not only left the institution intact but provided it with the protection of a vastly strengthened government after 1788. Reversing the conventional view that blames slavery on the South's social and economic structures, Nash stresses the role of the northern states in the failure to abolish slavery. It was northern racism and hypocrisy as much as southern intransigence that buttressed "the peculiar institution." Nash also shows how economic and cultural factors intertwined to result not in an apparently judicious decision of the new American nation but rather its most significant lost opportunity. Race and Revolution describes the free black community's response to this failure of the revolution's promise, its vigorous and articulate pleas for justice, and the community's successes in building its own African-American institutions within the hostile environment of early nineteenth-century America. Included with the text of Race and Revolution are nineteen rare and crucial documents--letters, pamphlets, sermons, and speeches--which provide evidence for Nash's controversial and persuasive claims. From the words of Anthony Benezet and Luther Martin to those of Absalom Jones and Caesar Sarter, readers may judge the historical record for themselves. "In reality," argues Nash, "the American Revolution represents the largest slave uprising in our history." Race and Revolution is the compelling story of that failed quest for the promise of freedom.

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Race and revolution

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Social historian Nash ( Forging Freedom , LJ 5/1/88) presents three essays and supporting annotated documents dealing with the neglected topic of slavery during the Revolutionary era. He argues ... Read full review

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Race and Revolution is a good writing in the aspect of the hidden meanings that surrounded all the events that happened in molding America into the land that is was to become. Nash gives a chronological sequence to the events to make this statement even easier to observe and understand. This book stay directly on tract and its introduction as to what the purpose if of the book. His thoughts are focused and his inclusion of certain figures in history add to the credibility of the writer.
The way the book is written gives you a feeling of being overwhelmed with facts of how slavery was dealt with and how slaves must of felt as well as the citizens that were fighting the status quo even though they did not believe in slavery nor accepted it. The book also gives the reader a sense of pride when you see what the nation went through during it early stages and how difficulties divided but ultimately brought the country closer. It also shows how decades later modern America is still dealing with the same issues with less violence and due to inequality not being accepted by the masses it is not politically correct to do the same things now as back then because society is not supporting it. Nash incorporates the struggle of the abolishment of slavery in a way that I have never witnessed before in other writings. The supporting documents really add to the atmosphere the book is delivering which is slavery is not beneficial for all involved.
Nash also deals with the consequences of ending slavery from the slaves viewpoint. He writes about the feelings of the slave owners and how they will try to cheat slaves out of property and their fair share due upon the abolishment of slavery which is an idea that I have never thought of. The perspective of the slave owners were that they were not going to give the slaves nothing when they are freed which is probably a popular stance among the slave owners.
The ulterior motives that Nash incorporate in this writing is another genius touch. It gives you the understanding of why slavery existing for such a long time and how the moral fiber of the population was somewhat in limbo. The church was against slavery because of the fact that Christianity was a big contributor to slavery being abolished in Europe, and the American Christian did not want to be associated with something that was already proven to be what the church was against. We must ask ourselves, would the Christians of America been as anti-slavery if it was not already accomplished by Christians in Europe? We also see the political agenda which Nash captures well. Money and votes as well as religion created the political agenda for slavery. I ask myself, would the political leaders would have had the same personal courage to stand up to slavery if the population was still generally approving of it? We also see the slave trade individuals which primarily took the stand for the sole purpose of profit. I ask myself, would they have ever disagreed with slavery because of the degrading effect it had on humans if money was not involved? These are questions that I believe Nash left out for the readers interpretation. This book was well written and touched on issues and provoked thought which is the purpose for writers to create. I felt that he accomplished this and brought relevant facts simultaneously.
I have a greater appreciation for the founding leaders of this country because of this book. It really gives you a clear understanding of the issues this country was dealing with at its inception and gives you an understanding of just how related the issues we are dealing with now are hundreds of years later. It provides another question that comes to mind. Are we ever going to solve these problems within our country or are we going to continue to kick the can down the street in order to meet ulterior motives or gain popularity among the masses?


The Revolutionary Generation Embraces Abolitionism
The Failure of Abolitionism
Black Americans in a White Republic
Documents for Chapter 1
Documents for Chapter 2
Documents for Chapter 3

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About the author (1990)

Gary B. Nash is the author of a variety of books on race and class in early America, including: Freedom By Degrees: Emancipation in Pennsylvania and Its Aftermath with Jean Soderlund (Oxford, 1991); Forging Freedom: The Black Urban Experience in Philadelphia, 1720-1820 (Harvard, 1988); Race, Class and Politics: Essays on Colonial and Revolutionary Society (Univ. of Illinois, 1985); The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (Harvard, 1979); Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early America (Prentice-Hall, 1974, 1982); Class and Society in Early America (Prentice-Hall, 1970); and Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726 (Princeton, 1968). He is a general editor of The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society (Harper and Row, 1986, 1990). In addition to teaching history at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received a UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Nash is the associate director of the National Center for History in the Schools. He holds his B.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

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