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Title: Benevolence and bitterness : the African-American experience in 19th century Connecticut
Author: Vara-Dannen, Theresa C.
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2012
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This study examines the African-American experience in 19th century Connecticut through the writing of its eminent resident authors, ordinary people, and journalists. In every racial incident that occurred during this period, white citizens were torn between profoundly emotional racist ideologies and a more humanitarian, Christian benevolence rooted in Connecticut's Congregational history. Even allies of the African-American cause, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, set clear limits on their support, perhaps to maximize the appeal of their work to the broadest readership. Newspaper editors, too, seemed to ensure that views within their newspapers expressed community standards. As a consequence, even the most forward-looking papers tended to preserve the balance of white power by perpetrating images of African-Americans as a servile and subservient caste; condoning and advancing colonization efforts; and portraying white people as the victims of 'levelling principles'. State legislation regarding voting rights, property ownership and interracial marriage was more generous than that of most Northern states, and allowed some African-Americans to succeed. Yet they were working against a tremendous weight of white bigotry that was so entrenched in custom and habit that no 'black' laws were deemed necessary, and black civil rights were advocated because they could not possibly affect white social associations. Furthermore, mainstream Connecticut newspapers were unique in that they saw fit to publish only what reinforced the state's most optimistic self-image as a civilized, tolerant and Christian community. This required a seemingly universal journalistic amnesia about white violence against African-Americans and their allies, along with the projection of southern guilt in cases of blatant discrimination in the state, and the thorough condemnation of 'extremists' like John Brown. The daily bigotry suffered by African-Americans, along with the hope of better economic prospects, led many to flee Connecticut's rural areas and group together for mutual help, support and comfort, in major cities. Consequentially, even today, the state is deeply residentially and economically segregated, resulting in physical, economic, social and psychological costs to all Americans.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available