Presentation on theme: "“A Majority of One” Thoreau & Other Disobedient 19 th -Century Individuals."— Presentation transcript:
“A Majority of One” Thoreau & Other Disobedient 19 th -Century Individuals
The Militant & Moral Individualism of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)Henry David Thoreau “On Civil Disobedience” (1849) Original title of lecture “Resistance to Civil Government” Response to Mexican War -> spread of slavery Refused to pay poll-tax, put in jail in Concord MA “Cast your whole vote” Response to “tyranny of majority” (de Tocqueville) Unalienable rights? Or “mass” consciousness? 19 th c. mass marketing of religion, politics, even Ben Franklin story Is an American first & foremost an individual, or a citizen? Conformity as treason, patriotism as dissent & disobedience? “majority of one” “one HONEST man” Government as “machine” “half-witted” Under an unjust government, “the true place for a just man is in prison”
Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879) Individualist argument against slavery First American-born woman lecturing in public mixed (“promiscuous”) audiences – “Afric-American Intelligence Society” Northern racism worse? Left New England for N.Y.C. What does it mean for a woman to speak & write? Explicit religious & revolutionary references Gives lie to myths of black inferiority – “worthy & interesting” Racism a variant of sexism? Worst harassment from black men in audience Comparing white women & black men, condemned to life of servitude by their condition of birth, regardless of natural abilities – antithesis of “self- made” person
Nat Turner’s Rebellion (1830) Southerners’ worst fears realized Toussaint L’Overture’s Haitian slave revolt (1791) David Walker’s Appeal (1829) – calls for U.S. slaves to revolt Turner’s is the last but best publicized violent revolt Leads to more strident justification of “peculiar institution” George Fitzhugh’s defense of slavery as “happy freedom” (1857) Religion the only mass experience allowed to slaves Turner’s Old Testament visions, leadership role as preacher Prohibitions against black literacy, religious justification for slavery Background against which Douglass spoke & wrote Compare his education, his rebellion and justifications for it
What force overthrows “King Law”? Notice types of appeals Douglass (and Garrison) use against slavery in the Narrative (& Preface) Which ones are conspicuously absent? Which ones appear repeatedly? Note Casper’s & Davies’s notes on emerging mass culture and “cult of domesticity” Growing sense of “self-made” American Which ones could still not be filmed in the year 2002? Pornographic, or too sentimental?