Categorized | News, Opinion


I just finished watching The Abolitionists and I will say that it was quite good.

I was pleased to see the centrality of faith in the abolitionist message but concerned about the treatment of John Brown.  He was portrayed in a sympathetic light.  But this is early – it is a three part miniseries so we’ll see how the series treats John Brown.  It is too early to see about the Civil War yet.

The treatment of Garrison, my hero and beau ideal, was sound.  My only criticism was that the series did not even discuss in passing Garrison’s successful criticism of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and their racist “alternative” to slavery.  Garrison’s Thoughts on African Colonization drove the ACS into obscurity.  I was pleased to hear that Garrison believed in racial equality and women’s rights, too.  I  especially liked Angelina Grimke’s testimony.  This is not the usual mindless anti-Southern historical stuff we get in the media and textbooks.  Very thoughtful.  Grimke had courage lacking in many men.  I would also have added what Garrison wrote on the jail wall after the near-lynching (Note:  This was a Boston mob, not a Southern one!) and it is this:

“William Lloyd Garrison was put into this cell on Wednesday afternoon, October 21, 1835, to save him from the violence of a ‘respectable and influential’ mob, who sought to destroy him for preaching the abominable and dangerous doctrine that ‘all men are created equal’ and that all oppression is odious in the sight of God.  Hail Columbia!…”  (p. 206, All On Fire)

You have to like this Garrison fellow if you are a blogger who believes in agitation as I do. My favorite to work in about Garrison is what he used to say about himself before many speeches:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am the peace-disturber Garrison – the fanatic Garrison – the madman Garrison…” (p. 141, All On Fire)

Mayer reports that many in the audience would laugh at the “pink-cheeked, bespectacled young man with his beaked nose and balding dome…” with such a radical message.  (p. 141, All On Fire)  Garrison’s simple, unassuming features belied his fervency and radicalism and made him attractive to many.

Remember, two more weeks of The Abolitionists on PBS.  I strongly recommend reading All On Fire.  It is a beautifully written but scholarly book about Garrison.  Someone should do a movie about William Lloyd Garrison.  He was a man of deep Christian faith who lived it in his life.  Wait until they show Garrison burning the Constitution and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Anthony says:

    I don’t know who else is watching this documentary, but just as I love looking up opinions in discussion boards on IMDB and rottentomatoes right after watching movies, I feel the same with documentaries, for me, it’s the same thing with the American Experience: The Abolitionists.

    I stumbled across your site when I was looking up the time for the first episode. I ended up finding it out, but after looking at your preview to the documentary, was eager to see your take on the first episode.

    I’m a history buff, and I LOVE this stuff. It’s just too bad that there isn’t more discussion on this documentary. Love seeing your opinions on it and definitely looking forward to the next two parts. It’s too bad we all have to wait a whole ‘nother week before it shows again!



  1. […] with baited breath the second part of PBS’ American Experience, The Abolitionists.  I thought part one was very good.  But I was bitterly disappointed with part two.  Let me start with what I […]

  2. […] State of Maryland for its pro-slavery prosecution in 1830.  Time to find out if the abolitionist hero has been pardoned and if not why not?  I plan to call the Governor’s office this coming week.  […]

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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