Labor, Politics, Race

Looking back, however, what is even more surprising than slavery’s scope is how swiftly it died. By the end of the 19th century, slavery was, at least on paper, outlawed almost everywhere. Every American schoolchild learns about the Underground Railroad and the Emancipation Proclamation. But our self-centered textbooks often skip over the fact that in the superpower of the time slavery ended a full quarter-century earlier. For more than two decades before the Civil War, the holiday celebrated most fervently by free blacks in the American North was not July 4 (when they were at risk of attack from drunken white mobs) but August 1, Emancipation Day in the British Empire.

And it all started with a Latin competition! A fascinating story, even if somewhat oversimplified by the author. Especially interesting are the tactics used by the English abolitionists to change public opinion (book tours, mass mailings, political posters, etc.). An encouraging story about the ability of a small group of dedicated people to change public opinion for the better. Unfortunately, today’s activist groups must face CBS and the Supreme Court