Lecture on 1800s Abolition and Pro-Slavery Movements in the US

Long before

Donald Trump

Appeared on the political scene in 2015, democracy in the US had already undergone major transformational change; particularly the

Republican Party

Had moved significantly to the right, and, perhaps even more important, had started to question and even resist democratic norms which until then had governed the democratic process. Thus, Trump was hardly the genius who helped bring about this change, but ended up capitalizing on foundations built by other less well known ideologues. Even though transformational change is difficult to date, it seems that the


And its

Contract With America

Is a good starting point at which this shift to the right, particularly on social issues and immigration, became noticeable. However, American democracy in popular perceptions has always been more of a myth than reality, and the weaknesses of the US political system can be traced back to the founding of the nation and the ideals governing the drafting of the US constitution in 1783. German historian

Michael Hochgeschwender

Has written a great book on this very subject which in my view should be obligatory reading for everyone trying to understand this ‘beacon of democracy’. His book

Die Amerikanische Revolution

questions the notion that the political and legal make-up of the constitution was as progressive as most of us later came to understand it. Indeed, American democracy is far from ideal, but I believe it falls even short of norms and rules we have come to accept in our own countries. Particularly the role of money and extraordinary levels of voter disenfranchisement continue to undermine political action and participation in the US. Given this context, it is beside the point whether one buys into the notion that American society has become more and more polarized due to economic changes, or it is more driven by the so-called culture wars. One thing is obvious: The ideological shifts in the GOP are certainly the result of the racially homogenous composition of the party, and race has remained the most severe stumbling bloc of democracy in the States. The legacy of slavery is still with us today, and the fallout from this early American tragedy has not been resolved satisfactorily by the political, social and legal institutions. Therefore, studying the nature of slavery and the battles between proponents of it and abolitionists remains central to the political situation today.

In this great



Joshua Rothman

Teaches a class on the early 1800s Abolition and Pro-Slavery Movements. Remember that sometimes progress means understanding the causes of present problems, since this is the prerequisite for overcoming the great American trauma which continues to hold the democratic process prisoner to the antiquated concept of race.

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