Symposium on Democracy ends with history of abolitionists

Sade Hale

Stanley Harrold, a professor from South Carolina State University, told a group of students, professors and faculty members Wednesday that racial bias may be a reason why historians don’t delve into aboltionists’ role during the Civil War.

“From the late 19th century and the mid 20th century, historians overlooked the abolitionists impact during the war and their second thoughts about the war’s utility after it was over,” Harrold said. “Even historians who recognize the abolitionist role in causing the Civil War ignored their role during the war.”

Harrold told the audience at the last session of this year’s Symposium on Democracy that most historians only look at abolitionist’s role during the antebellum period, which is the era before the Civil War began.

But abolitionists were involved in the war beyond the antebellum period.

“The abolitionist accomplished a great deal. They helped shape Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Union’s decision to accept black troops. Abolitionists help create what in 1865 became the Freedman’s Bureau,” Harrold said. “They lead in advocating for the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. By 1863, abolitionists had begun to congratulate themselves on their success.”

Abolitionists would also blame themselves for the failure of African-American equality after the Civil War.

“Many abolitionists came to believe they had failed to accomplish one, and perhaps both of their two major goals. They regretted the termination of legal slavery had not led White Americans to accept equal rights for African Americans,” Harrold said. “Most surviving abolitionists concluded that while they had secured emancipation they had failed to bring about moral reformation in White opinion.”

Wednesday was the last day of this year’s three-day annual symposium.

Contact Sade Hale at [email protected].