Platform for change : the foundations of the northern free Black community, 1775-1865 /
Harry Reed.
East Lansing : Michigan State University Press, 1994.
viii, 256 p.
More Details
East Lansing : Michigan State University Press, 1994.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1994-09:
Reed (Michigan State Univ.) examines the institutions that characterized free African American life in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, primarily before 1835. He emphasizes the rise of black churches, voluntary associations, and newspapers, as well as the Negro national convention movement and free black emigration movements. Reed argues these organizational activities constituted a "platform for change," whereby cultural development culminated in incipient African American nationalism by the mid-19th century. Though opposition to white-inspired colonization was important, Reed sees creation of black cultural identity as internally driven rather than as a reaction to white racism. He also challenges studies that portray free African American communities as riven by class differences. Unfortunately, both assertions are marred by inadequate documentation of sources and of the views of historians with whom Reed differs, e.g., Julie Winch (Philadelphia's Black Elite, 1988) or Jane and William Pease (They Who Would Be Free, CH, Apr'75). Nonetheless, Reed's study contains much that is new and provocative. Graduate students, faculty. T. S. Whitman; Gettysburg College
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Choice, September 1994
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Main Description
Platform for Change is a comparative study of the evolution of the free African American community in three cities-New York, Philadelphia, and Boston-from 1776 to 1865. It articulates the beginnings of community consciousness among northern free African Americans and examines their lives in the period from the Revolutionary to the Civil War. The author challenges existing scholarship about nineteenth-century blacks, which assesses their activity as just another exercise in powerlessness. Reed's work demonstrates that these people discovered and organized their power, and utilized it to construct a platform for change that continues to serve the African American community's needs today. This work begins by defining the context and elements of the African American community awakening during the years 1770-1865. It also describes their churches, how the community established organizations, the role of black newspapers, the convention movement as a public forum for black leaders and their ideas, and their creation of a nationalist ideology.
Unpaid Annotation
Platform for Change: The Foundations of the Northern Free Black Community, 1775-1865 challenges prevailing ideas about the passivity of African Americans in the antebellum North. At the same time, the work clearly demonstrates that the methods blacks used to respond to their political and social milieus were not merely reactions to white racism. Instead, late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century blacks are shown to have been motivated by human and social needs that, by and large, have been ignored by historians. Harry Reed reveals how, during this era, American blacks created a cultural identity and, at the same time, attacked the remnants of Northern slavery and the entire institution in the South. Taken collectively, the pre-Civil War activities of blacks in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia provided strong cultural underpinnings for the sense of black community that emerged after 1865. To the extent that they were able to confront racism, their spiritual strength was visibly reinforced bya strong cultural sense and an instinct for survival. What emerged during these nine decades was a marvelously complex, organic community, one that possessed its own rationale for existence, its own forms for enhancing collective life, and its own structures for meeting physical and spiritual needs, as well as the means for addressing external power centers that often had severe, negative impacts on blacks themselves.
Table of Contents
Backgroundp. 1
The Church: Spiritual Sustenance Was Not Enoughp. 17
Organizations: The Role of Self-Help, Fraternal, Women's, and Miscellaneous Groups in Creating a Community Infrastructurep. 57
Black Newspapers: Defenders of the Community Establishing and Maintaining a Public Voicep. 97
The Convention Movement: Public Forum for Black Ideas and Black Leadersp. 127
Emigrationism: Toward the Evolution of a Nationalist Ideologyp. 163
Conclusionp. 213
Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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