Next month, the University of Illinois Press will publish Quakers and Abolition, edited by Brycchan Carey (Kingston University, London) and Geoffrey Plank (University of East Anglia). The collection provides a wide-ranging exploration of Quakers’ views on slavery, from advocating for benevolent slaveholding to abolition. The publisher’s description follows.
This collection of fifteen insightful essays examines the complexity and diversity of Quaker antislavery attitudes across three centuries, from 1658 to 1890. Contributors from a range of disciplines, nations, and faith backgrounds show how Quakers often disagreed with one another and the larger antislavery movement about slavery itself and the best path to emancipation. Far from having monolithic beliefs, Quakers embraced such diverse approaches as benevolent slaveholding, both gradual and comprehensive abolition, and consumer boycotts of slave-produced products.
These evolving and uneven conceptions of slavery and emancipation were similar to the varied views Quakers had on racial integration. Offering a nuanced interpretation of these controversial topics–one that often diverges from existing scholarship–contributors discuss how Quakers attempted to live out their faith’s antislavery imperative. Essays address Quaker missions in Barbados; the interplay between African-American and Quaker communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; transatlantic correspondence between a colonialist Quaker and a freed slave who “returned-to-Africa” as a Liberian colonist; and the impact of Quaker-authored frontier literature.
Not surprisingly, this complicated and evolving antislavery sensibility left behind an equally complicated legacy. Focusing on Great Britain, France, and the United States, contributors show how Quaker antislavery actions and writings influenced revolutions and antislavery in those countries. Yet the Quaker contribution is also a hidden one because it so rarely receives substantive attention in modern classrooms and scholarship. This volume faithfully seeks to correct that oversight, offering accessible and provocative new insights on this key chapter of religious, political, and cultural history.