Author visits Delaware to explore slavery fight before Civil War

While President Lincoln gets much of the credit for fighting slavery, author Jefferson Morley’s book describes the grass roots fight against slavery decades before the Civil War.

The Abraham Lincoln legend continues to grow, most recently through the Steven Spielberg film that won actor Daniel Day-Lewis an Oscar for his portrayal of the 16th President.  But as the legend grows, so do some misconceptions, according to Jefferson Morley.  “You look at a movie like Lincoln, and you think, ‘It was all Abe Lincoln who decided at the end we need to abolish slavery.’  That’s really the last chapter of a story that began much earlier and didn’t involve Abe Lincoln at all.”

Morley’s book Snow-Storm in August retells the story of the fight for freedom in 1830’s Washington, DC.  The story centers around former slave turned successful restaurateur Beverly Snow who was involved in a race riot pitting whites against free blacks.  The following criminal trials prosecuted by then-District Attorney for Washington Francis Scott Key who Morley says defended slavery.

In addition to shedding light on a little known event in U.S. history, Morley will be in Wilmington tonight and Dover later this week to talk about the birth of the anti-slavery movement, “How the struggle for freedom first emerged in the United States in the 1830s, and this is kind of an untold story of the Civil War.”  

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He says East Coast cities like Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore saw an upsurge in abolitionist activities among both blacks and whites in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  Morley says the emergence of a significant free black community was the key development in bringing an end to slavery.  “At that time in the 1830’s, half of the black people in Washington were free.  Washington was about one third black in the 1830’s.”  He says, “You have this group of people who have their freedom, and they begin to organize to use that freedom…to take on slave power.”

The book is centered on activities in D.C., but similar activity was happening in cities like Wilmington around the same time.  “One key factor is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in Philadelphia…which spreads to Wilmington, to Baltimore and Washington, as well.  That becomes the first national black institution.”

Morley will be at the Carvel State Office Building auditorium in Wilmington tonight, starting with a reception at 5:30 and a presentation at 6 p.m.  On Thursday, he’ll be at Delaware State University’s Longwood Auditorium in Dover for a presentation at 7 p.m., followed by a question and answer time.  He’ll be signing copies of his book at both events.


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