More Than Freedom
Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889
by Stephen Kantrowitz
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation has traditionally been portrayed as the triumph of the nineteenth-century struggle for African American freedom and Reconstruction as the ultimately unsuccessful effort to extend that victory by establishing equal citizenship. In More Than Freedom, award-winning historian Stephen Kantrowitz boldly redefines our understanding of this entire era by showing that the fight against slavery was only one component of a much broader campaign by Northern activists to establish African Americans as full citizens. In this groundbreaking history, Kantrowitz recounts their pursuit of a more expansive vision of citizenship—one that encompassed both the road to abolition and war and the Reconstruction-era fight for equality, recognition, and a place to belong in a white republic.
More Than Freedom chronicles this epic struggle through the lived experiences of black and white activists in and around Boston, including both famous reformers such as Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner and lesser-known but equally important figures. Kantrowitz follows the intimate and political lives of black men and women who, beginning in the late 1820s, began to call themselves “colored citizens” and to demand not only freedom and rights, but also the respect, fellowship, and even affection of their countrymen and -women. While these activists have traditionally been called abolitionists, More Than Freedom reveals that their goals and achievements went far beyond emancipation. The book charts their growing networks of political, fraternal, and religious organization and their transformative impact on American political and social life in the decades surrounding the Civil War. By recounting the day-to-day experiences of these often embattled activists, Kantrowitz brings vividly to life their broad campaign for acceptance and inclusion in a white republic.
Even though these reformers ultimately failed to remake the nation in the way they hoped, they nonetheless left it irrevocably altered. In More Than Freedom, Kantrowitz shows us that without the persistent efforts of these colored citizens, the Civil War might not have come, freedom would not have meant what it did, and Reconstruction could hardly have begun.