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“A Majority of One” Thoreau & Other Disobedient 19 th -Century Individuals.

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Presentation on theme: "“A Majority of One” Thoreau & Other Disobedient 19 th -Century Individuals."— Presentation transcript:

1 “A Majority of One” Thoreau & Other Disobedient 19 th -Century Individuals

2 The Militant & Moral Individualism of Henry David Thoreau ( )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”

3 Maria W. Stewart ( )  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

4 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

5 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?


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