... 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.