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Making Slavery HistoryAbolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts$
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Margot Minardi

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379372.001.0001

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Fugitives and Soldiers

Fugitives and Soldiers

(p.132) 5 Fugitives and Soldiers
Making Slavery History

Margot Minardi

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how black Bay Staters in the 1850s strove to claim “manhood” and “citizenship” by representing themselves and their ancestors as agents in history. This endeavor was especially pressing after 1850, when the Fugitive Slave Act made African Americans vulnerable to slave catchers, even on the professedly free ground of the North. In this context, Crispus Attucks, who had largely been forgotten in early national commemorations of the Revolutionary War, assumed his place as black America's finest example of patriotism and heroism. The leading figure in the effort to recover the agency of Attucks and other black patriots was William Cooper Nell, an abolitionist, integrationist, and historian who published The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution in 1855. This chapter interprets the revival of interest in black Revolutionary heroism in the context of the struggle for African American civil rights in Massachusetts, with particular attention to the effort to allow black men to serve in the militia.

Keywords:   citizenship, Fugitive Slave Act, African Americans, Crispus Attucks, Revolutionary War, agency, William Cooper Nell, civil rights, militia

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