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Angelina Grimke: Rhetoric, Identity, and the Radical Imagination

Stephen Howard Browne
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Angelina Grimke
    Book Description:

    Abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer, Angelina Grimké (1805-79) was among the first women in American history to seize the public stage in pursuit of radical social reform. "I will lift up my voice like a trumpet," she proclaimed, "and show this people their transgressions." And when she did lift her voice in public, on behalf of the public, she found that, in creating herself, she might transform the world. In the process, Grimké crossed the wires of race, gender, and power, and produced explosions that lit up the world of antebellum reform. Among the most remarkable features of Angelina Grimké's rhetorical career was her ability to stage public contests for the soul of America-bringing opposing ideas together to give them voice, depth, and range to create new and more compelling visions of social change.Angelina Grimké: Rhetoric, Identity, and the Radical Imaginationis the first full-length study to explore the rhetorical legacy of this most unusual advocate for human rights. Stephen Browne examines her epistolary and oratorical art and argues that rhetoric gave Grimké a means to fashion not only her message but her very identity as a moral force.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-897-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Encountering Angelina Grimké
    (pp. 1-16)

    Angelina Grimké lived her life in the spaces between, in the gaps and fissures that separated her from what was left behind and from a more perfect future. Her biography may well be read as a series of repudiations, as a coming to conviction and so to action. Yet these repudiations—of home, slavery, patriarchy, sectarianism, of the world she knew—far from crippling Grimké, gave to her character its strength, its edge and range. Such coming to conviction was usually done in silence, prayer, reading, and reflection. Acting on it never was. “I will lift up my voice like...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Beginnings: Rhetoric and Identity in the Journal of Angelina Grimké
    (pp. 17-34)

    Charleston, South Carolina. 10 January 1828.In the twenty-fourth year of her life, Angelina Grimké decided that the time had come for change. It would not be easy for this heir to the eminent Grimke name, nor would it come readily, for such change as she contemplated meant rupturing old ties, putting away habits that had long defined who she was and who she might become. The first order of business was to eliminate all sources of pride and idleness, all those superfluities that seemed now to make Angelina other than herself. The social rituals, the tiresome parlor talk, the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Violence, Identity, and the Creation of Radical Community
    (pp. 35-56)

    The summer of 1835 burned itself deeply into the racial consciousness of America. From Nashville to New Hampshire, violence against abolitionists had taken on a scope and intensity unprecedented in the annals of the antislavery movement. Even in this, “the era of greatest urban violence America has ever experienced,” 1835 was to prove singular: abolitionists were subjected in that year alone to no less than thirty-seven mob attacks. “North and South, East and West,” theNew York Heraldreported, people everywhere seemed to be “lashing themselves into a fury—searching for conspiracies—hunting out dangers—and manifesting the utmost spirit...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Real Pasts and Imagined Futures in the Appeal to the Christian Women of the South
    (pp. 57-82)

    Boston. 14 October 1835. No. 17 Washington Street.The riots that had incited Grimke two months earlier continued apace, and William Lloyd Garrison was predictably in the middle of it all. Here was, he recalled, “an awful, sublime and soul-thrilling scene—enough, one would suppose, to melt adamantine hearts, and make even the fiends of darkness stagger and retreat.” The scene of Garrison’s rapture was Boston’s Anti-Slavery Hall, and from his bench within he was, for the moment at least, party to a glorious confrontation between good and evil. In its fruitless hunt for the English reformer George Thompson, the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “An Entirely New Contest”: Grimké, Beecher, and the Language of Reform
    (pp. 83-110)

    Saturday, 12 August 1837. Groton, Massachusetts.In the midst of her speaking tour and with a twelve-mile ride to Roxboro scheduled for the Sabbath, Angelina relaxed in the way she knew best: by writing letters. In Theodore Weld she could count on a reader at once sympathetic and challenging, and on this day she had much to communicate. After months of travel throughout New England and endless hours spent in speaking and debate, the sisters had accumulated enough notoriety to last a lifetime. For Angelina, the experience was a learning one indeed. However anxious she may have been about such...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “To Open Our Mouths for the Dumb”: Grimké, Weld, and the Debate over Women’s Speech
    (pp. 111-138)

    After the slow and arduous spiritual journey that took her from private doubt to public conviction, Grimké had learned to act quickly and to certain effect: the encounter with Garrison in the summer of 1835; the writing and publication of theAppealsoon thereafter; the exchanges with Beecher: each point of contact is marked by a ready grasp of public expectations and of the words required to meet them. This much is not to say, of course, that Angelina was either especially sensitive to popular appetites or that she pandered to their interests; it is to stress that she recognized...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Violent Inventions: Witnessing Slavery in the Pennsylvania Hall Address
    (pp. 139-166)

    Angelina Grimké’s rhetorical career was begotten in violence, and so it ended. In the summer of 1835, she had been startled into action by reports from riotous Boston, and, by presuming to give counsel to abolition’s most notorious leader, dramatically announced her entrance into public life. The letter to Garrison provided Grimké with a highly compressed, artistically complex medium through which to give form and effect to this new identity, and thus to imagine before others the possibilities of renewed community and the convictions required for such renewal. Grimké had never seen a mob before, much less Boston’s distinctive brand...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 167-174)

    On the occasion of Sarah Grimké’s passing at the age of eighty-one, Lydia Maria Child wondered to Angelina whether “it now sometimes seems strange to you that those exciting and eventful years, that so tried our souls and taxed our energies, have passed away into history?” Very few remained, thought Child, who had “any idea of the prayers, and tears, and inward struggles, through which you and your noble sister passed, in that arduous mission of rescuing millions of human brethren from the darkness and misery of slavery.” If, in fact, as Child averred, the young of 1874 looked back...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 175-188)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-196)
  14. Index
    (pp. 197-201)