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Humanities Libertexts

10.8: Primary Sources

  • Page ID
    9944
  • Revivalist Charles G. Finney Emphasizes Human Choice in Salvation, 1836

    Charles Grandison Finney left a successful law practice when he believed God called him to become a preacher. He enjoyed great success, particularly in Upstate New York, a region that Finney called “the burned over district.” Finney’s revivals emphasized human action, and he encouraged his converts to join various reform organizations, including avoiding alcohol and eventually opposing slavery.

    David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, 1829

    David Walker was the son of an enslaved man and a free black woman. He traveled widely before settling in Boston where he worked in and owned clothing stores and involved himself in various reform causes. In 1829, he wrote the remarkable Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. In it, he exposed the hypocrisies of American claims of freedom and Christianity, attacked the plan to colonize black Americans in Africa, and predicted that God’s justice promised violence for the slaveholding United States.

    William Lloyd Garrison Introduces The Liberator, 1831

    William Lloyd Garrison participated in reform causes in Massachusetts from a young age. In the 1820s he advocated black colonization in Africa and the gradual abolition of slavery. Reading the work of black northerners like David Walker changed his mind. In 1831, he created a newspaper, called The Liberator. The following is the opening essay that Garrison used to explain the purpose of his paper.

    Sarah Grimké Calls for Women’s Rights, 1838

    Antebellum Americans increasingly confined middle-class white women to the home, where they were responsible for educating children and maintaining household virtue. Yet women used these ideas to become more active in the public sphere than ever before, taking prominent roles in all the major reform causes of the era. Women’s participation in the antislavery crusade most directly inspired specific women’s rights campaigns. In this document, Sarah Moore Grimké calls for equality between men and women.

    Henry David Thoreau Reflects on Nature, 1854

    The Transcendentalist movement began in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1836, when a group of Unitarian clergymen formed what later became known as the Transcendental Club. The club met for four years and quickly expanded to include numerous literary intellectuals. Among these were the author Henry David Thoreau. In 1845, Thoreau took up residence at Walden Pond and began to write. The result was Walden, which touted simple living, communion with nature, and self-sufficiency.

    The Fruit of Alcohol and Temperance Lithographs, 1849

    This pair of lithographs, created by Nathaniel Currier (later of Currier & Ives fame), contrasts the “fruits” of abstaining from alcohol to those of indulging in strong drink. It leaves little to the imagination. Intemperance is symbolized by a diseased tree, surrounded by drunks outside of a pawn shop and a woman and her children being thrown out of their home. The lush foliage of temperance, on the other hand, is surrounded by prosperous church-going farm families.

    Missionary Society Membership Certificate, 1848

    The Second Great Awakening moved American evangelicals to proselytize at home and abroad. The image on this lifetime membership certificate to a missionary society shows how the new member’s money will be used. The guiding hand of Providence and an angel bearing a book (presumably a Bible) hover at the top of the image. In the background, a mosque topples over. An African family kneels and reaches towards the heavens on the left side, while a minister preaches to Native Americans gathered before him on the right.

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