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About Kellie Carter Jackson
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From its origins in the 1750s, the white-led American abolitionist movement adhered to principles of "moral suasion" and nonviolent resistance as both religious tenet and political strategy. But by the 1850s, the population of enslaved Americans had increased exponentially, and such legislative efforts as the Fugitive Slave Act and the Supreme Court's 1857 ruling in the Dred Scott case effectively voided any rights black Americans held as enslaved or free people. As conditions deteriorated for African Americans, black abolitionist leaders embraced violence as the only means of shocking Northerners out of their apathy and instigating an antislavery war.
In Force and Freedom, Kellie Carter Jackson provides the first historical analysis exclusively focused on the tactical use of violence among antebellum black activists. Through rousing public speeches, the bourgeoning black press, and the formation of militia groups, black abolitionist leaders mobilized their communities, compelled national action, and drew international attention. Drawing on the precedent and pathos of the American and Haitian Revolutions, African American abolitionists used violence as a political language and a means of provoking social change. Through tactical violence, argues Carter Jackson, black abolitionist leaders accomplished what white nonviolent abolitionists could not: creating the conditions that necessitated the Civil War. Force and Freedom takes readers beyond the honorable politics of moral suasion and the romanticism of the Underground Railroad and into an exploration of the agonizing decisions, strategies, and actions of the black abolitionists who, though lacking an official political voice, were nevertheless responsible for instigating monumental social and political change.
This wide-ranging interdisciplinary collection—the first of its kind—invites us to reconsider the politics and scope of the Roots phenomenon of the 1970s. Alex Haley’s 1976 book was a publishing sensation, selling over a million copies in its first year and winning a National Book Award and a special Pulitzer Prize. The 1977 television adaptation was more than a blockbuster miniseries—it was a galvanizing national event, drawing a record-shattering viewership, earning thirty-eight Emmy nominations, and changing overnight the discourse on race, civil rights, and slavery.
These essays—from emerging and established scholars in history, sociology, film, and media studies—interrogate Roots, assessing the ways that the book and its dramatization recast representations of slavery, labor, and the black family; reflected on the promise of freedom and civil rights; and engaged discourses of race, gender, violence, and power in the United States and abroad. Taken together, the essays ask us to reconsider the limitations and possibilities of this work, which, although dogged by controversy, must be understood as one of the most extraordinary media events of the late twentieth century, a cultural touchstone of enduring significance.
Contributors: Norvella P. Carter, Warren Chalklen, Elise Chatelain, Robert K. Chester, Clare Corbould, C. Richard King, David J. Leonard, Delia Mellis, Francesca Morgan, Tyler D. Parry, Martin Stollery, Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang, Bhekuyise Zungu