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America's History in the Making

Antebellum Reform

In the Video

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Historical Perspectives

Historical Perspectives

Industrialization and urbanization contributed to rising social problems and class tensions. Rising levels of prosperity and the increased availability of manufactured goods allowed many women the time to focus more of their attention on moral concerns, a trend encouraged by the Second Great Awakening, which urged Christians to improve the world.

The middle class, especially women, responded by devoting more and more time to missionary schools, temperance, abolitionism, and other reforms.

Faces of America

Faces of America

Just as many nineteenth century reformers shaped the focus and direction of antebellum reform movements, so too were their own lives shaped by their involvement with reform.

Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and soon joined the Garrisonian wing of the abolitionist movement. He gradually became more independent and asserted that abolitionists could use political means to end slavery. He actively recruited African American soldiers during the Civil War and continued to work for a wide range of reforms after the war.

Angelina and Sarah Grimké left their slave-owning family in South Carolina for Philadelphia. They were soon speaking against slavery and male dominance at a time when women who spoke in public were attacked for being unfeminine and immoral.

Sarah Bagley came to work in the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts in her early thirties. She helped to form the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1844 to protest the mills’ deteriorating work conditions.

Hands on History

Hands on History

What disciplines inform the study of historic sites? The Cane River Creole National Historical Park features two intact plantations. Its staff conducts architectural, archaeological, and oral-history research to recapture the history of people who seldom left written records of their lives, particularly slaves. Read edited Hands on History interview with Laura Gates, Peggy Scherbaum, Eric Ford, Rolanda Teal, and Greg Duggan.

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