Thursday, August 24, 2006

Book Review: "Boston's Abolitionists"

As part of Commonwealth Editions' "New England Remembers" series, Kerri Greenidge, a former park ranger/historian at the Boston African-American National Historic Site on Beacon Hill, has written Boston's Abolitionists, a short overview of the anti-slavery movement in Boston during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is difficult to provide anything nearing a full treatment of such an important topic, let alone in fifty-seven pages of text, but Greenidge's effort is a decent introduction to the subject.

The role of Boston and its citizens - black and white - in the American abolition movement cannot be understated; without the efforts of David Walker, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner and others history would have undoubtedly taken a much different course. While Greenidge's work makes this point, I can't help but wish that she had been able to go into more detail: deeper discussion of Garrison's journalism, the Anthony Burns episode, and perhaps most importantly the pre-Revolutionary abolition efforts would have been most welcome. The omission of footnotes is also a perpetual bugaboo of mine - even in a basic work like this, citations are important.

Greenidge writes well, and her knowledge of the subject is clear. I hope that she'll have the opportunity to expand on this work in future. But if you're looking for a good overall rundown of abolitionism in Boston, this will be an excellent starting point.

[The author will be speaking about her book at Boston's Old State House at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13]