|Antebellum Reform Roundtable Character Descriptions
Theodore Parker (Alex Eiffert): Theodore Parker was born in 1810 to a large farming family from Lexington, Massachusetts. True American blood flowed through his veins; indeed, his own grandfather was none other than John Parker, the leader of the very militia, which fired the first shots at Lexington in 1775. Parker was highly educated, entering Harvard in 1831, and graduating through the Harvard School of Divinity in 1836. By his year of graduation, however, most of his family had died of disease. After college, Parker began to associate with the New England Transcendental Club, and became colleagues with Ralph Waldo Emerson and the like. Eventually, he found himself questioning the Church, rejecting it, and expressing his own ideology that people should develop a personal relationship with God rather than obey the Church’s guidelines. Eventually, he was installed as a minister in the Congregational Society of Boston, and became a Unitarian preacher. Parker continued life combating what he viewed as unjust organizations, specifically slavery. In 1857, he became ill with tuberculosis, and with failing strength died three years later in Florence, Italy.
Sojourner Truth (April Mininsohn): Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and a women’s rights activist. She was the first black woman to win a court case against a white man in order to free her son from slavery. Truth was an ex-slave and escaped to freedom. She helped recruit black slaves for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Wendell Phillips (Connor Boles): Wendell Phillips was a well-known abolitionist, orator, and lawyer, fought for the rights of slaves, Native Americans, and women. He graduated from Harvard Law in 1833 receiving his oratory skills from the great professor Edward T. Channing, who taught several of the greatest orators of that time. He became an abolitionist in 1836 and was well known throughout the country for his oratory skills, he wrote several strong essays that advocated for the freedom of the slaves. He also argued that Native Americans had the right to be citizens, using the 14 the amendment as support, and he also fought for the suffrage of women.
David Walker (Sam Bretz): David Walker was and an antislavery advocate and abolitionist who lived from 1785-1830. He is famous for the pamphlet he published called Walkers Appeal, in which he urged slaves to rise up against their masters and to revolt. Walker was strongly of the opinion that America belonged more to African Americans than to whites because African Americans had done the labor that made America into what is was at that time. Walker's pamphlet caused a scare in the southern colonies as the plantation owners and non-slaves feared a slave revolution.
Theodore Dwight Weld (Maddux Castle): Theodore Dwight Weld was a core member of the abolitionist movement during the nineteenth century as he took up many of his ideals when he traveled around the country as a religious and philanthropic agent. He wrote and edited many books and periodical on the topic of emancipation with his wife and her sister (The Grimke Sister) after he lost his voice. He was an aide to the cause of John Quincy Adams within Congress as he headed the debates concerning slavery. Later in his life, he founded two schools for all races and genders, focusing on equality.
Horace Mann (Emma Bartels): Horace Mann is commonly known as a great American education reformer. His primary argument during the Antebellum Reform was that universal public education was the most sensible way to produce civilized and educated citizens. His argument consisted of six basic principles: the public school should not be ignorant, education should be paid for by the public, that schools should embrace children of various backgrounds to provide the best possible education, that the education system should be non-sectarian, that education should be taught by a free society, and that education should be provided by professional and qualified teachers. His hope for this reform was that students of all backgrounds would receive the same education and lower class children would have the opportunity to change the social scale.
Mother Ann Lee (Daysi Gomez): Mother Ann Lee was part of a sect known as the Shaker Quakers in 1758 and was imprisoned in England during a period of religious prosecution. After being released in 1781 and experiencing religious visions, she moved to New England and set up the first Shaker sect in America. Located in New York, the Shaker Quakers gained converts after a year of settling. However, when Mother Ann Lee and her followers tried to gain more converts in New England, they were attacked and prosecuted. During the Revolutionary War, they were thought to be English spies. Mother Ann Lee was said to have performed miracles, which gain more converts nonetheless.
Lydia Marie Child (Audrey Batzer): (1802-1880) Lydia Marie Child was a prominent white abolitionist who devoted her life to the anti-slavery cause. In her well-known book, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans called Africans (1833), Child effectively attacked the Southern slavery system as well as the racial hostilities in the North with logic and proceeded to call for immediate emancipation and equality for blacks. Along with her avid anti-slavery activism, Child was an influential women's rights activist, as she believed that women's rights would come only after abolition.
Margaret Fuller (Sarah Ulrich): Margaret Fuller was born on May 23, 1810 in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. She received an extensive education first from her father and later in the multiple schools she attended. When her father died, she was put in charge of her younger siblings education and taught for a couple of years to help her family's financial situation, before deciding she needed more time for her writing. She was an editor of The Dial, along with Emerson, and published her essay on women’s equality in the philosophical journal. Along with her beliefs of women’s rights, Fuller believed in the emancipation and rights of African Americans. In 1844, she published Summer on the Lakes, which caused her to be hired by Horace Greely as book review editor for the New York Tribune. In her columns in the Tribune, Fuller discussed the plight of slaves as well as women’s rights. She then published Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which added onto her feminist ideas from her essay in the Dial. Margaret Fuller passed away on July 19, 1850.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (William St. Pierre): Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American author and orator. He is best known for his leadership in the Transcendentalist movement, a philosophical ideology that challenged the state of education in the Eastern United States. The general premise was that man could only thrive without societal institutions, such as organized religion and political parties. Emerson was opposed to slavery, but he kept his views mostly private, rather than subjecting himself to public scrutiny. However, he did give a number of speeches and lectures in favor of the abolition of slavery. Emerson discusses his views on slavery in his book The Conduct of Life. One unusual view presented in this text, is the idea that civil war was an effective way for the U.S. to end its economic and intellectual woes.
Susan B. Anthony (Jennifer Zhang): Susan B. Anthony can from an activist Quaker family and developed a sense of justice and zeal early in her life. Until her death in 1906, Anthony advocated and pushed for women rights and suffrage. In addition, she advocated for the right for women to own property, keep their earnings, and education. Even though Anthony’s main focus was on women’s rights, she also helped again rights for blacks as well.
Dorothea Dix (Katie Dreyer): Dorothea Dix, born on April 4th, 1802, was an activist of the insane who managed to create the first generation of mental asylums in America. After seeing the abuses of mentally insane people in America, she began studying the treatment of mental illnesses and helped draft bills needed to build asylums for those in need. Dorothea Dix traveled around the United States, from New Hampshire to Louisiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to call for reform. A hospital named in her honor was opened in 1856 in North Carolina. The Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane, containing many of Dorothea Dix’s ideas, set aside 10 million acres for the benefit of the insane, blind, deaf, and dumb. The bill was passed in congress in 1854 but was vetoed in the same year by president Franklin Pierce.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Katrina Martinez): Elizabeth Cady Stanton was both an abolitionist and an activist for women’s rights in the eighteenth century. Her main focus was on the rights of women but during the Civil War she acted primarily as an abolitionist. As a staunch believer in women’s rights, Stanton participated in the Seneca Falls Convention in July of 1848, where she and several other attendees created the “Declaration of Sentiments”. This document resembles the Declaration of Independence in form and structure by referring to the oppressor as “he” and highlighting the lack of rights for women as a result of man. It emphasized the belief in equality for all men and women. This declaration was seen as a call to arms for all females everywhere to join in the fight for female equality. Stanton also worked with other leading female figures such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony for the advancement of equal rights for women.
Frederick Douglass (Chetan Patel): Frederick Douglass was born in 1818 as a slave in Maryland. After escaping the bondages of slavery he became an active abolitionist using his extraordinary oratory and writing skills as a method to transmit his ideas to the American public. Initially he was closely associated with William Lloyd Garrison in the fact that both pushed for slavery reform through a peaceful, non aggressive method of reasoning and moral persuasion. After a period of time, Douglass’ views changed to a political method of achieving emancipation; he joined and was closely aligned with The Liberty Party. Douglass over time became resigned to a violent method of achieving liberation, The Civil War. He was also a staunch supporter of women’s rights throughout his life; his last speech was at a women’s rights rally in 1894 before he died.
William Lloyd Garrison (Sean Mihn): William Lloyd Garrison was an abolitionist, best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. He was also one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the New-England Anti-Slavery Society promoting immediate emancipation of the slaves. Garrison is said to be one of the most radical opponents to slavery, even traveling to England to help the anti-slavery movement there. Also extremely outspoken on women suffrage and his outspokenness frequently placed him in danger.
Lyman Beecher (Jacob Knego): Lyman Beecher was a Presbyterian minister born in Connecticut. He was seen as one of the main leaders of the Second Great Awakening of the United States. Beecher was a major player in Christianizing the West and therefore moved to Cincinnati at the age of 57. He was not an abolitionist but rather preferred gradual emancipation. Lyman was tried twice by the Presbyterian Church on the grounds of heresy, but was acquitted in both cases.
Charles Grandison Finney (Benson Stevens): Finney was a prominent leader in the second great awakening, and has been known as the Father of Modern Revivalism. He opposed Old School Presbyterian theology, and was a proponent of Christian perfectionism, and favored women and blacks. Finney was best known for his innovations to preaching and having public meetings of prayer of mixed gender. He also as a religious leader denounced slavery, even went as far as to educate blacks and women with white men.
Henry David Thoreau (Christine Yin): Henry David Thoreau was a prominent American author, poet, philosopher, and abolitionist. His most notable work is Civil Disobedience, in which he argues for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. His writings on natural history and philosophy anticipated the findings of ecology and environmental history, both of which lead to the establishment of modern day environmentalism. His writing style largely implements rhetorical devices and symbolic meanings. He was a devoted abolitionist and delivered lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law.
Robert Owen (Hunter Cohen): Robert Owen was born in the United Kingdom, in Wales, in 1771 and died in 1858, as a main founder of utopian socialism. Robert Owen strongly believed that many should not have to compete against machines for jobs. Owen believed that all people are products of their own hereditary traits and environment. In 1835 Robert formed the "Association of all Classes of all Nations" in which the socialist views first came up. Among socialist beliefs the two main ones were that all religion is based off the same imaginary logic and it gets in the way of productivity and that a society must be a putting-out system instead of a manufacturing system. In 1854 Owen converted to spiritualism, despite his anti-religion socialist views, after being convinced to do so by sitting with Maria Hayden, the woman who introduced spiritualism to England, a few times. After his death many spiritualists claimed that his spirit dictated the "Seven Principles of Spiritualism."
Arthur Tappan (Jake LeBlanc): Arthur Tappan, born in Massachusetts, quickly established himself as a successful businessman in Boston and New York. Tappan spent a great amount of his time in the effort to abolish slavery in the United States. He served as the first president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and donated money in support of the Underground Railroad. Arthur Tappan lived long enough to see his work paid off in the Emancipation Proclamation.
John Humphrey Noyes (Charlie Bond): John Humphrey Noyes was a highly religious man who believed that Jesus had already ascended from heaven in 70 AD. His views were similar to the views of Mormonism for example he believed in complex marriage which is analogous to polygamy. Because of his viewpoints he was almost arrested several times on charges such as adultery and statutory rape. He believed in the idea of perfectionism which was that he was free of sin. This idea would help shape the community that he would found in Oneida, New York. Oneida became a thriving town which was famous for its silver ware trade. Noyes fled to Canada, where he died, after almost being arrested.
Joseph Smith (Kris Brzostek): Joseph Smith, born in December of 1805, founded the Latter Day Saints movement. At 24, he published The Book of Mormon, starting the religion of the Mormon Church as a prophet who discovered the last installment of the Bible he found written on golden plates. His thousands of followers flocked, and they all migrated across the country, establishing temples and cities, until he was killed in June of 1844.
Angelina Grimke (Veronica Gammaro): She was born in the early 1800s, and she and her sister worked as activists, abolitionists, and supported women’s suffrage. Though they upheld traditionally southern morals, she and her sister supported equal rights for all. She joined the Religious Society of Friends prior to her activism.
Johan Georg Rapp (Alex Hayes): Johan Georg Rapp emigrated from Germany to the U.S. in 1803. His followers, Christian separatists, soon followed him to Pennsylvania, where Rapp established his first commune. This community, called “Harmonie,” was Rapp’s most successful as all residents were obedient in the command to share all the property evenly among all the followers and they were subservient in Rapp’s ideals of celibacy (non-marriage), nonviolence and other social ideas put forth by their leader. This society led by Rapp moved to Indiana for ten years before they returned to Pennsylvania to found a town called “Economy,” where Rapp’s adherents continued to practice the fundamentals of the “Harmonie” separatist group.