Why was upstate New York the most important theater in the United States for the development of political abolitionism? What role did Charles Grandison Finney, the most famous revivalist preacher of his day, and the Second Great Awakening play in fostering immediatism, the belief that morally re-centered indivduals must make a conscious commitment, without delay, to work for the abolition of the sin of slavery? How did a small group of theoretical abolitionists, frequently mobbed and beaten as troublemakers by their fellow Northerners during the Jacksonian Period, translate their activism in the North into a broad-based antislavery crusade that appealed to the working-class masses? What were the contributions of Gerrit Smith and Theodore Dwight Weld, both, at one time, connected to Hamilton College, in shaping the abolitionist movement?
Judge Hugh C. Humphreys, a 1961 graduate of the Columbia Law School and a member of the governing board of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro, New York, addressed these and other questions on 11 November to undergraduates at Hamilton College in the introductory course in American history co-taught by Professors Robert Paquette and Maurice Isserman. Judge Humphrey’s presentation included a remarkable collection of slides on the history of abolitionism. His article ” ‘Agitate! Agitate Agitate!’ The Great Fugitive Slave Law Convention and Its Rare Daguerrotype,” Madison County Heritage 19 (1994) has received applause from specialists for the painstaking research that led to his deciphering of a Daguerrean photograph of the black and white attendants with Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass at the Fugitive Slave Convention held in Cazenovia, New York, in August 1850.
The AHI congratulates Judge Humphreys for his outreach to diverse audiences in seeking to awaken interest in American history and to elevate civic discourse.