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p. 1Introduction

Abolitionist agitation in a world of slavery and painlocked

  • Richard S. Newman


This brief survey of abolitionism focuses mostly on Anglo-American reformers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it also surveys Atlantic-wide movements that began with slave rebels in the 1500s and ended with Brazilian emancipation in the 1880s. The introduction explains that wherever it took shape, abolitionism was both a meditation and a movement: a meditation on “big ideas” about freedom and equality and a complex movement of people, organizations, and events designed to bring those ideas to fruition. Abolitionism was a social movement—an activist struggle akin to the twentieth-century civil rights movement—that focused on political and social agitation. Abolitionist ideas and actions reframed how people understood slavery, race, global freedom, and multicultural democracy.

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