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.