“The Black Hearts of Men” by John Stauffer Critical Review

The theme of abolition and the struggle of Americans for civil rights for all Americans regardless their ethnic origin, religious beliefs, social position and economic status was always among the central themes in works of many writers and scientists. At the same time, there are really few works which research the close cooperation of the leaders both white and black of the abolitionist movement who struggled for the rights of non-white population of the US. In this respect, the work by John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men, is particularly noteworthy since it focuses on the very productive period of the cooperation of the leaders of human rights movement in the 19th century Gerrit Smith, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown. The book fully reveals the extent to which the four men were ahead of their epoch. In fact, it is possible to speak that this book depicts an unusual alliance of two white sand two African Americans whose cooperation itself was already revolutionary for that epoch and was one of the earliest indicators of the upcoming epoch of cross-racial friendship and symbolized the new cross-racial society where there remained no room for racial discrimination and oppression.

Naturally, it is probably a bit idealistic view of the future society but it is exactly what a reader can think of while reading the book by John Stauffer as he depicts the life and work of the famous four abolitionists who fight for the rights of African American people inhabiting the country. In fact, the alliance of Gerrit Smith, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown resulting in the foundation of the Radical Abolition Party in 1855 was extremely unusual and, to a significant extent, unexpected. The 19th century was the epoch when the cooperation between white and non-white Americans was hardly possible while personal friendship was practically something unimaginable and totally unacceptable to American society of that epoch. It is necessary to underline that the author has managed to skillfully convey this atmosphere of racial intolerance, if not to say hostility.

The book perfectly conveys the negative attitude of the public and the exclusiveness of such alliances as the four men organized. To put it more precisely, John Stauffer underlines that these four men turned to be able to behave in a different way publicly demonstrating their ability to cooperate with each other and, what is even more important, they proved to be friends. In such a way, the author represents certain insights revealing the fact that this alliance was a kind of sample of the future society of which all the four leaders thought.

At the same time, John Stauffer makes his book closer to readers using understandable language which is commonly used nowadays. Using such a language, the author meets two goals. On the one hand, he makes his narration understandable to an ordinary, contemporary reader. On the other hand, he indirectly emphasizes that even though he rights about the 19th century but the story itself is not really remote in time from the present epoch. What is meant here is the fact that the cooperation and friendship of the four leaders of the abolitionist movement is perceived as quite natural by contemporary readers and it seems as if all the four are just people living practically next door. This effect is partially achieved through the use of the modern language.

However, to a significant extent, the progressive ideas of the four main characters of the book also contributed considerably to the creation of such an effect. In such a way, the author apparently wants to demonstrate that the lifestyle of the four leaders was more typical for the present epoch than for the 19th century society. Consequently, John Stauffer underlines that the four men turned to be able to overcome the existing prejudices, biases and socio-cultural barriers and show the rest of American society the way to the new cross-racial society.

On the other hand, the author’s narration, being logically constructed, rationally indicates to the fact that the four men should primarily change themselves, their own way of thinking to the extent that the two white men should be in the African Americans’ shoes. In other words, each of them should become a colored man’ (Stauffer 15) in order to fully feel the cross-racial unity that actually reveals the symbolism of the title.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that John Stauffer has managed to create the book which reveals the most progressive trends of the 19th century and he depicts people which proved to be able to become the precursors of the future cross-racial society when the life and work of Americans is not limited by racial boundaries.

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