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Critical Rhetorics of Race$
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Michael G. Lacy and Kent A. Ono

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814762226

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814762226.001.0001

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Declarations of Independence

Declarations of Independence

African American Abolitionists and the Struggle for Racial and Rhetorical Self-Determination

(p.139) 7 Declarations of Independence
Critical Rhetorics of Race

Jacqueline Bacon

NYU Press

This chapter examines the rhetoric and critiques of slavery by black abolitionists who were constrained by white abolitionists who held white supremacist beliefs that blacks lacked the intellectual capacity to marshal persuasive rational arguments. By the late 1830s, many African American abolitionists began publicly expressing a desire for independence from white antislavery leaders with whom they had previously collaborated. In powerful statements declaring their desire for self-determination, they argued that their white colleagues' attempts to control and restrict their rhetoric and activism were offensive and oppressive. In doing so, they critiqued white abolitionist leaders' racism, affirmed African Americans' right to create arguments on their own terms, and uncovered the history of black rhetorical activism that gave them empowering precedent for their efforts. These declarations challenged the established power relationships within the abolition movement, enabled new voices to emerge, and brought unique arguments into public debate.

Keywords:   slavery, black abolitionists, white abolitionists, white supremacist beliefs, black activism, racism, abolition movement

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