Have you ever wondered where the idea of racial equality came from? How did all this get started in the United States? Who destroyed the White Republic to write this into the Constitution?
The following excerpt comes from David Goldfield’s book America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation:
“The danger to the South and its institutions was no longer abstract, as the prayer of Ohio Republican congressman Joshua Giddings demonstrated: “I look forward to the day when there shall be a servile insurrection in the South, when the black man … shall assert his freedom, and wage a war of extermination against his master; when the torch of the incendiary shall light up the towns and cities of the South, and blot out the last vestige of slavery. And yet I may not mock at their calamity, nor laugh when their fear cometh, yet I will hail it as the dawn of a political millennium.”
When the South seceded in 1861 to escape from the peril of “Black Republicanism,” it had in mind abolitionists like Rep. Joshua Giddings of Ohio. This is the sort of talk about “the dawn of a political millennium” that they were already dealing with in the 1850s. Giddings represented a region of Ohio known as the Western Reserve that was settled by New Englanders.
The following excerpt comes from Paul Goodman’s book Of One Blood: Abolitionism and the Origins of Racial Equality:
“Finally, let us urge upon you a total abandonment of prejudice against color,” abolitionist leaders instructed the thousands of rank and filers who had enlisted in the cause by 1837. Were slaves white skinned, they told them, no one would tolerate their bondage for an instant. White abolitionists who harbored color prejudice could never be efficient advocates of the cause because American slavery was racial in character and justification. “The abandonment of prejudice is required of us as a proof of our sincerity and consistency,” abolitionists affirmed. Seven years earlier, at the outset of his conversion to immediate abolition, William Lloyd Garrison had reached the same conclusion: “O that [my countrymen] might feel as keenly for a black skin as a white skin.” The black leader Samuel Cornish understood the significance of his people of the emergence of these white immediatists, despite their shortcomings: “They have shown that God created all men EQUAL.”
In the 1830s, for the first time in American history an articulate and significant minority of Americans embraced racial equality as both a concept and a commitment, although it was an ideal far more difficult to live up to than to profess. Earlier proponents of racial equality were isolated voices that left few traces. This new development marked a change in the history of race relations in America – at a time when the dominant view among elites and common folk held that there was no future for free blacks in the United States …”
Goodman has done an excellent job of tracing the genealogy of anti-racism back to New England and its diaspora in the 1830s. “Immediatism” was a fanatical “ultraist” reform movement (teetotalism is another example that was often bundled with abolition) that grew out of the Finneyite revival in the Deep North during the Second Great Awakening.
“In the half-dozen years following the publication of Thoughts on African Colonization, white abolitionists, in the course of producing the founding texts of the movement, developed the most extensive defense of racial equality in American history. From Lydia Maria Child’s book length Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833), to a fifteen-page pamphlet, Prejudice against Color (no date), published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, to Richard Hildreth’s powerful first antislavery novel, The Slave, The Memoir of Archy Moore (1836), abolitionists addressed the issue of prejudice and argued for immediate emancipation. Believing that race prejudice underpinned slavery, abolitionists committed themselves not just to emancipation, but, in the words of Article 2 of the New England Antislavery Society’s constitution in January 1832, “to improve the character and condition of the free people of color, to inform and correct public opinion in relation to their situation and rights and obtain from them equal civil and political rights and privileges with the whites.”
The only thing missing here is the modern term “racism” which abolitionists called “prejudice” or “race prejudice.” Otherwise, every aspect of the modern fanatical progressive worldview on race was in place by the 1830s: DZGD (the dogma of zero group differences), White guilt, the hysterical moralizing, the stereotype of the magic negro, “prejudice” as the explanation for black dysfunction, etc. The War Between the States itself was started by a Social Justice Warrior … John Brown.
“Correcting public opinion was no mean task. “Our prejudice against blacks is founded in sheer pride; and it originates in the circumstance that people of their color only, are universally allowed to be slaves,” Child argued. “We made slavery, and slavery made the prejudice.” Color phobia, abolitionists contended, is irrational, wicked, preposterous, and unmanly. It is contrary to natural rights and Christian teaching, which recognizes no distinctions based on color. Race prejudice, Elizur Wright Jr. exploded, is “a narrow, bitter, selfish, swinish absurdity.”
In the East, racial equality grew out of evangelical Protestantism and Enlightenment rights talk: the former emphasized spiritual equality while the later emphasized the equal rights of humanity.