Emerson's Antislavery Writings

Front Cover
Yale University Press, Jan 1, 1995 - History - 232 pages
This book presents the first comprehensive and authoritative collection of Emerson's writings against slavery and the subjugation of American Indians--writings that reveal Emerson's deep commitment to social reform. Included are speeches and lectures that have never before been published or collected in any other edition of Emerson's writings.

"Taken together, this group of writings constitutes a critical mass of evidence that demonstrates Emerson's continuous involvement in protest against slavery and other forms of social oppression much more dramatically than has been done before." --Lawrence Buell, Harvard University

"This valuable collection contains eighteen works by Emerson on the subject of slavery written between 1838 and 1863. . . . The texts are well annotated, and a historical introduction rightly demonstrates Emerson's important participation in the abolition movement." --Nineteenth-Century Literature

"This new volume . . . seeks to put Emerson's views on abolitionism in a clearer light while fitting the writings into the larger frame of his philosophy of social reform. . . . A skillfully edited volume . . . [that adds] to a deeper understanding of Emerson's thought." --Charles Sermon, State


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Letter to Martin Van Buren
An Address on the Emancipation of
Antislavery Speech at Dedham
The Fugitive Slave Law
Speech at a Meeting to Aid John Browns Family
Attempted Speech
Textual Commentary

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About the author (1995)

Known primarily as the leader of the philosophical movement transcendentalism, which stresses the ties of humans to nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and essayist, was born in Boston in 1803. From a long line of religious leaders, Emerson became the minister of the Second Church (Unitarian) in 1829. He left the church in 1832 because of profound differences in interpretation and doubts about church doctrine. He visited England and met with British writers and philosophers. It was during this first excursion abroad that Emerson formulated his ideas for Self-Reliance. He returned to the United States in 1833 and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. He began lecturing in Boston. His first book, Nature (1836), published anonymously, detailed his belief and has come to be regarded as his most significant original work on the essence of his philosophy of transcendentalism. The first volume of Essays (1841) contained some of Emerson's most popular works, including the renowned Self-Reliance. Emerson befriended and influenced a number of American authors including Henry David Thoreau. It was Emerson's practice of keeping a journal that inspired Thoreau to do the same and set the stage for Thoreau's experiences at Walden Pond. Emerson married twice (his first wife Ellen died in 1831 of tuberculosis) and had four children (two boys and two girls) with his second wife, Lydia. His first born, Waldo, died at age six. Emerson died in Concord on April 27, 1882 at the age of 78 due to pneumonia and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Joel Myerson (born 1945) is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina. He has edited many books about the works of such American literary figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman.

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