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Neo-Abolition Article Needs Clarity, Focus, Definition, Explanation, and Examples[edit]

At the moment it is muddled. I am willing to help fix it.

Fascinating that neo-abolitionist or neoabolitionist has remained an insider term among historians for so long and has managed not to make it into any mainstream dictionary. I doubt this is an oversight. I checked various of my dictionaries going back to 1965 up to the (current) 11th edition of Merriam-Webster, the publishing industry standard. The word neoabolitionist or neo-abolitionist appears in none of them. The word also does not appear in the online version of an even wider array of online dictionaries:

Dictionaries do pick up common parlance and accepted usage. Neocon is in the dictionaries along with many other words beginning either with neo- or without the hyphen. (Chicago Manual of Style would insist on the hyphen, as would Merriam-Webster if the term is ever accepted in M-W). I can be and often am wrong but it seems the term neo-abolitionist has a specific meaning to a tiny group of historians, and at the moment, it is not clear that the is accepted by the historians it is supposed to describe.

Is there an example of a historian referring to himself or herself as neo-abolitionist? Is the term a short cut for a pejorative or imprecise in other ways? Too many questions are unanswered. The following appears in the current version of this article:

The first known use of the term dates to 1964, when historian George B. Tindall said that in the 1920s H. L. Mencken was the "guiding genius" behind "the neoabolitionist myth of the Savage South,". [Tindall, "Mythology: A New Frontier in Southern History," in The Idea of the South: Pursuit of a Central Theme, ed. Frank E. Vandiver (Chicago, 1964), pp. 5-6.]

While that does identify the presumed first occurrence of the word neoabolitionist, still, that quote is locked in jargon and references that high school and college students, or other members of the general public (who are not members of the U.S. history profession, or a subset) would readily be familiar. e.g. What is the Savage South? What is the "neoabolitionist myth"?

As importantly, what was Tindall's viewpoint? What school did he belong to? Did he intend that as a pejorative statement? What was the context of the introduction of the new terminology?

I am studying the way the neo-abolitionist page is written with an eye toward increasing its clarity. While the term Dunning School is readily understandable because it is traceable to a particular historian and his followers, the term neoabolitionist first appeared retroactively-- 7 or 8 decades after the historical school it is supposed to describe, i.e. those people post-Civil War who sought equal rights for African-Americans.

The term supposedly also identifies historians writing after a gap of about 70 years but without explaining the gap. Now that's troubling. I'd like to see some sort of heirarchy, such as the founder of the school and its followers.

The term neoabolitionist is understandable if explicitly defined and placed in the context of post-civil war Abolitionists who continued their work after slavery was abolished by seeking equal treatment for the formerly enslaved. (The current page identifies one former abolitionist, a white who apparently abandoned what he had previously stood for. That seems to be a skewing. Why he did so is not clear. What of Frederick Douglass? Did he also lose his way? Should Douglass be mentioned? Does he fall into the category of neo-abolitionist?)

The overall problem with the term neo-abolitionist is it does not suggest what its proponents seek to abolish.

The pertinent questions are: do the historians described as neoabolitionists (with or withou the hyphen) accept that term as describing what they do?

Or, is it applied by historians who do not share the viewpoint of whatever it is The Neo-Abolitionist School is supposed to represent/stand for/espouse/or interpret history? skywriter 23:24, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

As I say near the end of the page, I recommend that the section about the Dunning School be deleted altogether. The focus of the article (as stated in the first paragraph) seems to be on the Civil Rights activists and historians who later re-evaluated achievements of Reconstruction and late 19th c. events. Then keep the focus on them. Introducing all the material about the Dunning School seems a way to rehash their issues.--Parkwells 00:40, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Skywriter makes some very good points and I tried to rewrite the article to take them into account. The Oxford English Dictionary does NOT like neo- words, it lists 20 and says "The number of such formations is practically unlimited, and only some of the more prominent or typical are illustrated here." Rjensen 00:44, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

Continue to need examples of corruption alleged[edit]

In article after article in the section of Wikipedia that connects to the subject of Reconstruction, including this article, there are vague, unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, but no citations and no specifics. What is the basis for those claims? Are they merely allegations with no basis, or is there some meat? Who did what that was corrupt?

In the absence of specifics, these assertions risk either being deleted, being called unsubstantiated, or false claims. I am hoping for details.

Following up on my earlier note (in March) on this page: besides lacking specifics on the question of these allegations, also missing are the individuals who made the claims along with the historians who researched the claims with citations to their findings. Were there indictments? Was anyone convicted? That seems to be an appropriate measure of whether or not the claims are true or blowing wind.

Here's an example:

This was deleted: "The article on Thaddeus Stevens in Wikipedia offers no examples of corruption by Stevens, and the articles on the Northernerns, African Americans and white southerners, also offer no examples of alleged corruption, despite the allegations of corruption.

and yet this claim about Stevens et al. was left in?

Most textbooks followed the Dunning School which depicted Reconstruction as a disaster, traceable, those turn of the 20th century historians alleged, to corruption by the Radical Republican coalition, including its national leader Thaddeus Stevens and state leaders, including African Americans Freedmen, Northerners who went South in support of civil rights, called carpetbaggers, and the largest group, white Southerners who were members of the Republican Party, called scalawags.

That is a large group of people to make accusations about? A broad swipe. And yet, there is nothing to suggest it is verifiable. Is any of it true? How can this be verified? Can anyone shed light? This will be appreciated. Thanks.

Skywriter 22:55, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

neoconfederate hatred of abolitionists[edit]

Alas Wiki has some neo-confederates who hate and belittle the abolitionists but that is not good reason for removing an article that talks about the revival of abolitionist sentiment in the 1960s. It was Howard Zinn for example who wrote a famous book about the Civil Rights movement that identified them as "new abolitionists". ( SNCC: The New Abolitionists by Howard Zinn (1st ed 1964, new ed 2002). As for the dictionaries they of course explain that they strongly resist adding "neo" words because there are so many of them.

Zinn was not, of course, talking about historians of any kind; but about the civil rights movement itself. This is not, therefore, a citation for the sense of neoabolitionist supposedly being discussed here. Septentrionalis 01:53, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Noting the removal of citations[edit]

Earlier versions of this article pointed out that the term neoabolitionist and neo-abolition is not in any dictionary accepted by the publishing industry. I have re-added that material with link, and I have also linked to Harvard Sitkoff's article in the magazine of American Historians pointing out that neo-abolition is a derisive label.

Unless the agenda is to suppress other viewpoints, I suggest that this viewpoint not be deleted from this article.

I have also copyedited this article. A lot of what has been added to this article over time more properly belongs to, and is a rehash of what is in, or should be in the article about abolition. All of the attempts in this article to link the movement to abolish slavery to the term "neoabolition" favored by conservatives to mock historians of African American history over the last 50 years-- is disingenuous. Much of what is in this article is also a rehashing of what is in other articles on Wikipedia concerning Reconstruction, most of them written from the pro-conservative historian perspective of the conservative history teacher, now retired, Rjensen.

What is in this article is not about what Rjensen claims is "neoabolitionist" but a rehash of other articles from his viewpoint --a viewpoint that is demonstrably both hostile to African Americans and friendly to consevative historians who disparaged and/or failed to record the African American viewpoint. So, this represents a real problem on Wikipedia in areas of history that need to change over time to more fairly reflect diverse viewpoints. At the moment, much of what is in related articles is from an extreme conservative, often confusing viewpoint-- that fails to represent fairly-- contemporary scholarship. These and related articles fail to fairly reflect the scholarship of the last half century as clearly discussed in Harvard Sitkoff's article[ ] I hope Rjensen stops making personal attacks on me, and considers the trail of hostility he is leaving in the aforementioned articles. This is a request that Rjensen stop the edit warring and begin to present the scholarship without injecting his personal viewpoints. Skywriter 18:22, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

August 2006[edit]

"abandoned the cause"??[edit]

I deleted the nasty remark about Charles Sumner, which was flatly wrong and defamatory. As for the claim that "white congressional abolitionists abandoned the cause" - that strikes me as a very POV exaggeration. Would somebody care to defend that phrase? I'm leaving it for the time being, but if a persuasive case isn't forthcoming it should be reworded. Cgingold 03:13, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

The sentence you have called to question seems like a vast oversimplification to me, and I would agree that there seem to be POV problems with it. There certainly was an abandonment of further civil rights legislation and enforcement by the North and the Republican Party in general, but this can hardly be laid at the feet of the minority of actual abolitionists (i.e. pre-Civil War abolitionists) still in Congress. As far as Sumner, the following is from the second volume of Donald's biography of Sumner, describing his death bed:
Even more insistent was the dying man's concern for his "bill". Thinking at first that Sumner was worried over some household debt, his secretary assured him it would be paid. "You do not understand me," Sumner mustered strenght to explain: "I mean the Civil Rights Bill." When Hoar came to his bedside about ten o'clock in the morning, Sumner recognized him and managed to say: "You must take care of the civil-rights bill, -- my bill, the civil-rights bill, don't let it fail. An hour later, when Frederick Douglass looked into the sickroom, Sumner returned to the subject once more, exclaiming with something of the old ring in his voice: "Don't let the bill fail."
While I imagine death bed scenes are subject to exaggeration, it is a fact that Sumner was still pushing a civil rights bill at the time of his death. Tom (North Shoreman) 12:57, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Charles Sumner has nothing to do with the term neoabolitionist. There is a large amount of unrelated information in this article, and this article does not support the false claim that is made that neoabolitionism is a school of historians.Skywriter 21:42, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Avoid neologisms (WP:NEO)[edit]

This article continues to violate Wikipedia:Avoid neologisms (WP:NEO) as neoabolitionist is not a term in any known dictionary, past or present. -- see except the existence of this very article.

While some of the information in this article is interesting, it easily fits into other articles. This is an example where editors at Wikipedia are doing original research to create a word that dictionary editors do not recognize. As an example of how Wikipedia is creating this word, see Skywriter 02:53, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

I think you should reconsider the decision not to delete this article. As you pointed out above, it violates Wikipedia's policy on avoiding neologisms.

Further, the article starts out talking about how some people related the Civil Rights movement to abolitionists, but spends most of its time discussing historians' view of Reconstruction. Here it repeats other articles and sections on Reconstruction. I don't think it is focused enough to work. --Parkwells 20:55, 29 October 2007 (UTC)--Parkwells 21:05, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Confusion of Topic[edit]

I think the entire section on the Dunning School and early historians on Reconstruction should be deleted. The article starts out identifying neo-abolitionists as activists associated with the Civil Rights movement. Later, in the usage section, it lists times when 20th c. historians are classified as neo-abolitionists. Then, that should be the topic. Take out the part about Reconstruction and the Dunning School altogether. Just focus on why activists in civil rights were called neo-abolitionists (that is never fully explained), and how the Civil Rights movement may have affected late 20th c. historians' reappraisal of Reconstruction and the Redeemers, so that they would be called neo-abolitionists. Otherwise it's far too roundabout and off the topic for the first third or more.--Parkwells 00:15, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

Proposed move[edit]


NeoabolitionistNeoabolitionism — -- This proposal is consistent with the rest of the Category:Theories category.Greg Bard (talk) 01:18, 3 July 2010 (UTC)


billinghurst sDrewth 05:25, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Lede is lacking[edit]

If I were impolitic, I'd say it was crap. It's useless for somebody trying to find out what the thing is about. I'm left asking "is this even a thing?". (talk) 14:31, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

yes the critique hits the mark....there is a tendency to write mostly about the Dunning School, which has its own article, and ignore the scholarship of the last 30 years. I revised it and and added some new quotes to show current usage. Rjensen (talk) 07:42, 30 April 2013 (UTC)
ty (talk) 14:06, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

Lede is inaccurate[edit]

The quotes in the Lede, all from 21st century re: historians being neo-abolitionists, do not support statement that this term was quickly applied to historians working in the 1960s and 1970s. Also, there were reasons in addition to the civil rights movement that historians were re-evaluating the Civil War and Reconstruction, including European influences of studying "subaltern history". Either the Lede needs to be changed to say, "In the 21st century, historians characterize revisionist historians beginning in the mid-20th c. as neo-abolitionists...." or have quotes that support early usage as applied to historians. Absent the 21st-century context (which seems to be what most of the article is about), have deleted the following from the Lede: <<Bradley (2009) says, "Inspired by the civil rights movement, neo-abolitionist historians such as John Hope Franklin, Kenneth M. Stampp, and Eric Foner took their cue from DuBois and placed blacks front and center in their Reconstruction narratives."[1] They led a re-evaluation of Reconstruction and its aftermath that focused on the significance of full citizenship and suffrage for African Americans. Thus Allen C. Guelzo (2009) refers to "the most recent neo-abolitionist histories from Henry Mayer and Paul Goodman" as well as "older neo-abolitionists like James McPherson, Howard Zinn, and Martin Duberman.".[2] George M. Fredrickson (2009) says, "Neo-abolitionist historians profess to derive their standard from the abolitionists of Lincoln's own time."[3]Parkwells (talk) 18:46, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

Standardize ID of historians[edit]

Previously, some historians were identified by institutions in this article: Yale professor so-and-so, Stanford professor, etc. Since it is mostly an argument about and within academic historians, either all should be so identified or none. Parkwells (talk) 12:34, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

Lacks context[edit]

While the article discusses use of the term and says it is linked to people influenced by the civil rights movement, it does not really provide context for what they were responding to: the systematic disfranchisement and suppression of constitutional civil and political rights for African Americans as American citizens under Southern law and practice. It seems the article needs to provide more about this, with more discussions about what these historians were doing. For instance, what has been the effect of studies of African Americans as agents of their own history, both within and after slavery? In addition, there were already established revisionist European historians, for instance studying the working class in England, and issues in colonial history in India, or peasants in France and elsewhere. These movements also affected American historians.Parkwells (talk) 12:41, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Mark Bradley (2009). Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction North Carolina. University Press of Kentucky. p. 268. 
  2. ^ Allen C. Guelzo (2009). Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas. SIU Press. p. 99. 
  3. ^ George M Fredrickson (2009). Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race. Harvard University Press. p. 29. >>