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Series Continues Equality Examination With ĎAbolitionistsí

Jan. 31, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The Sam Houston State University Newton Gresham Library will examine one of the most influential people within the American abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass, during its second Created Equal series presentation on Thursday (Feb. 6).

The presentation will include a screening of the second episode of the three-part PBS documentary The Abolitionists and a discussion led by visiting assistant professor of history Lindsey Swindall, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Old Town Theatre, in the Huntsville downtown square.

The Abolitionists coverThe Abolitionists is significant because it is one of the first documentaries to focus on how abolitionism impacted U.S. society,” Swindall said. “Though today it is easy to sympathize with the abolitionist movement, we sometimes forget that abolitionists were considered to be fanatical.

“Their call for an end to slavery as well as equal rights for women was viewed as a dangerous fringe movement; yet, their courageous advocacy was crucial in raising national consciousness about the horrors of slavery and forcing the nation to live up to its claim of equal rights.”

The second episode focuses on important people and ideas related to the movement and traces Frederick Douglass’s escape from slavery; his meeting with William Lloyd Garrison, who invited Douglass to join the movement; and the impact of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

“It is a good film to represent the Created Equal series because the abolitionists were the some of the first equal rights activists in U.S. history,” Swindall said.

“Many historians have conceptualized the civil rights activists of the 1960s as the intellectual and philosophical heirs of the abolitionists,” she said. “Frederick Douglass’s writings, for example, had a big impact on the students who mobilized in the 1960s and part of their activism included a call for the inclusion of more study of the works of black activists like Douglass in colleges and universities so that students could see that they were part of a long tradition of activism.

After the film, Swindall will lead a discussion on the role of abolitionists like Douglass and Garrison in changing U.S. society in the 19th century, as well as their role as predecessors to the civil rights activists who came later. Audience participation is encouraged.

The “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” series was designed to explore the history of civil rights and the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

Future programs include “The Loving Story: Breaking the Law for Love,” hosted by Jeffrey Littlejohn on Feb. 18; and “Slavery by Another Name: Black Labor Abuse,” hosted by Bernadette Pruitt on Feb. 26. The events will be held around Huntsville.

“The audience conversation following the first film on Jan. 21 was truly both engaged and engaging, and I am very excited to hear what our participants will express in response to this second film,” said Erin Cassidy, NGL web services librarian and Created Equal grant coordinator at SHSU.

The free, public events were made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History grants.

For more information, contact Cassidy at 936.294.4567 or visit library.shsu.edu/createdequal.



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