About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Color of Abolition: How a Printer, a Prophet, and a Contessa Moved a Nation

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s conversation with Linda Hirshman about her new book, The Color of Abolition, which examines the alliance among Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Maria Weston Chapman in the fight to end slavery in the United States. Joining the author in conversation is Margaret Sullivan, media columnist at the Washington Post.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up next month on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, April 5, at 1 p.m.—four days after the National Archives releases the 1950 Census to the public—author James R. Gaines will be here to tell us about his new book, The Fifties: An Underground History. Gaines argues that they were not a decade of conformity but a time that sparked movements for change in gay rights, feminist rights, civil rights, and the environment.

And on Tuesday, April 12 at 1 p.m., Kostya Kennedy brings us his unconventional biography of Jackie Robinson, titled True, which focuses on four transformative years in Robinson's athletic and public life. A letter Robinson wrote after an incident on a bus while he was a second lieutenant at Fort Hood, Texas, is on display in the East Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC, and online through April 20.

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In the decades before the Civil War, Frederick Douglass emerged as the foremost orator and writer for the abolition movement. Abraham Lincoln said of Douglass that “there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.” And at Lincoln’s second inauguration, Douglass sat near the President

How Douglass came to be at the side of the President is a story told in The Color of Abolition, our featured book for today’s program.

Linda Hirshman describes how the team of Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Maria Weston Chapman successfully promoted the antislavery cause in the 1840s. By the early 1850s, however, Douglass joined with those who actively engaged in politics to achieve abolition and rejected the non-political means espoused by Garrison and Chapman.

New York Times reviewer William G. Thomas III calls The Color of Abolition a “fresh, provocative and engrossing account of the abolition movement.” And in the Boston Globe, reviewer Lydia Moland declares: “Hirshman’s book is a wonderful cataloging of Americans, white and Black, who devoted their lives to ending slavery.”

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Linda Hirshman is the author of Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment, and of the New York Times best-selling Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.

Margaret Sullivan is the Washington Post’s media columnist and the author of Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy and the forthcoming memoir, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons and Worries from an Ink-Stained Life.

Now let’s hear from Linda Hirshman and Margaret Sullivan. Thank you for joining us today.