"Be Not Conformed To This World": Oberlin And The Fight To End Slavery, 1833-1863
This dissertation examines the role of Oberlin (the northern Ohio town and its organically connected college of the same name) in the antislavery struggle. It traces the antislavery origins and development of this Western "hot-bed of abolitionism," and establishes Oberlin-the community, faculty, students, and alumni-as comprising the core of the antislavery movement in the West and one of the most influential and successful groups of abolitionists in antebellum America. Within two years of its founding, Oberlin's founders had created a teachers' college and adopted nearly the entire student body of Lane Seminary, who had been dismissed for their advocacy of immediate abolition. Oberlin became the first institute of higher learning to admit men and women of all races. America's most famous revivalist (Charles Grandison Finney) was among its new faculty as were a host of outspoken proponents of immediate emancipation and social reform. From its beginning, Oberlin Institute and the community supported a cadre of activist missionaries who helped spur the abolitionist movement to its greatest period of growth and assisted in the breaking down of racial barriers in an exceedingly intolerant region. The college and town comprised one of the most ideologically influential and tactically successful groups of abolitionists within the antislavery movement. With Oberlin in the vanguard, the West becomes the movement's nerve center by the late 1840s. Oberlin representatives were at the cutting edge of political antislavery organization embodied in the Liberty, Free Soil, and Republican Parties, the African American convention movement, and constant facilitators in one of the nation's busiest Underground Railroad "depots." Oberlin was instrumental in developing diversity in antislavery thought, an aspect of the movement that most historians have not explored. Rather than falling into the distinct categories which many scholars place abolitionists (political, radical pacifist, radical militant, clerical, etc.), Oberlin abolitionists took the field as men and women devoted to ending slavery by any means necessary, even if that meant not adhering to ideological consistency or working through unconventional methods. Their philosophy was a composite of various schools of anti-slavery thought aimed at supporting the best hope of success.
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