5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
“Black Radicalism in the Revolutionary Era: Freedom, Equality, and Cosmopolitanism, 1770–1780”
Chernoh Sesay, DePaul University
Recent work on the limits of antislavery activism during the late-eighteenth century suggests that black activism suffered from a naive belief in universal rights, and that the failure of the new states to abolish slavery quickly and universally partially reflected a lack of organization among black critics. While these interpretations help explain the limited, gradual, and compensatory nature of northern emancipation, they make difficult a deeper investigation of African-American political thought and activism. This paper reexamines Massachusetts black protest to better understand the relationship between its hesitant optimism and its previously overlooked early coalescence.