PBS dramatizes The Abolitionists first introductions to slavery

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Part one of PBS’s “The Abolitionists” airs again Thursday morning at 4 A.M. EST.

Last night, part one of “The Abolitionists” detailed Angelina Grimke, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s introductions to slavery and their lifelong dedication to abolition.

Grimke and Garrison opposed slavery for spiritual and religious reasons. They found Christianity and human bondage in conflict. Grimke was in Philadelphia and Garrison was in Boston running his abolitionist paper when Grimke wrote him.

Grimke’s letter affirmed the inhumanity of slavery that his paper opposed without much proof. Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy South Carolina slave holder, was isolated from her family and her Charleston hometown after her letter published. She was threatened with arrest should she return to Charleston.

Garrison and Grimke both worked to end slavery with abolitionist speeches. Grimke spoke and insisted it her right to speak despite protests that her appearances put men and women in the same meeting spaces.

Garrison was eventually met with a throng of violent opposition outside his Boston office. Garrison fiercely opposed violence and did not view violent behavior as the behavior God wanted to see in humans. Arguably, Garrison was fully unaware of the South’s dependence on human beings to earn money and to help families like Grimke’s make it through the day with daily tasks like child rearing and formal dinners.

As Angelina made her speeches and battled opposition, she fell in love with a fellow abolitionist, Theodore Weld. As she battled, she succumbed to typhoid fever and eventually retreated to a New Jersey farms after a building she was scheduled to speak was burned in a huge fire.

Garrison retreated to Connecticut after a narrow escape from the violent crowd outside of his Boston office. His wife was nine months pregnant and he wrote to say that he’d not return and had lost his faith in humanity. He said that every institution supported and wanted slavery. To participate in the political and religious systems in place was a support for slavery, he said.

Before the violent encounter with a crowd who wanted to tar and feather him, Garrison believed faithfully that slavery would end the very next day. The crowd pursued Garrison in retaliation for Nat Turner's revolt.

“The Abolitionists” is a docudrama that keenly presents male, female, black and white violence on film in a manner similar to “Law and Order SVU”. 6-year-old Frederick Douglass hides in a closet while his aunt is chased, punched with fists to the floor and then tied and hanged in a kitchen and whipped.

The beating took place because the aunt wasn't where the master could find her when he wanted her. Douglass knew slavery as a violent and inhumane existence where a slave trainer or (breaker) (Coffey) was called in to whip up on Douglass every week. Douglass beat Coffey down and spared Coffey’s life. In return, Coffey never visited Douglass again.

Part one ends with Douglass getting wind of the abolitionist movement and with Harriet Beecher Stowe standing face to face with the relative of a sold slave on an auction block.

Part two airs next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. EST. In this episode actors portray Frederick Douglass’s escape from slavery and merger with William Garrison. Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and John Brown, the only violent revolutionary featured in the dramadoc, reveals his plan to free the slaves.

photo of The Liberator credit: Wikipedia

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