... as Hirshman deftly documents, purity of principle can generate its own intolerance ... Hirshman turns these epistolary spats into page-turning reading, revealing backbiting and pettiness more at home in a teenage clique than in a moral crusade ... Hirshman’s book is a wonderful cataloging of Americans, white and Black, who devoted their lives to ending slavery ... offers a sobering reminder of the prejudice that often pollutes white activism. In our uncertain political moment, it shows how Americans historically reacted to a moral emergency. It should not surprise us that they brought their faults as well as their talents to the struggle. Perhaps their imperfect example can help us do better.
... fresh, provocative and engrossing ... With brisk, elegant prose Hirshman lays bare 'the casual racism of the privileged class' within Garrison’s abolitionist circle ... Hirshman’s incisive analysis clarifies how the long confrontation over federal law fortified abolitionists’ resolve ... As Hirshman deftly reveals, the personal was political.
... by dwelling on the rivalrous, often petty, personalities of all the participants, Ms. Hirshman effectively reduces the abolitionist movement to little more than a group of squabbling egotists. Surely, abolitionism had a moral force greater than the sum of its flawed parts.
Viewing the abolitionist movement from a unique angle, Hirshman shows how the breakdown of the alliance among the three activists was fueled in part by Douglass’ rising fame, burgeoning dissent among the nation’s political parties, and, not least, Weston Chapman’s aspersions about Douglass’ work ethic and character ... A well-researched history of the fraught path to emancipation.
... informative ... By lucidly untangling the abolitionist movement’s complex web of alliances, Hirshman sheds light on the antebellum period and the dynamics of social movements in general. American history buffs will be engrossed.
Hirshman’s book is a lively depiction of the antislavery movement, in which the three charismatic characters at the heart of her story provide an engaging avenue into the competing philosophies and strategies that continually challenged abolitionism’s unity and effectiveness. Her writing is breezy, designed to engage readers who are not historians and whose interests may lie more in the present than the past ... The book’s depiction of the racial divisions and White prejudices at the heart of abolition will convey to a wider audience important realities that have long been recognized in more academic writings about antislavery ... But Hirshman’s expository device of the 'threesome' distorts the underlying forces in antislavery as well as overstating the significance and distinctiveness of the connection among her three main characters.