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Freedom and Deference

Freedom and Deference

Society, Antislavery, and Black Intellectualism

(p.178) Chapter Three Freedom and Deference
Elisa Tamarkin
University of Chicago Press

This chapter looks at the Anglicization of antislavery and how black abolitionists refashioned themselves as “Englishmen,” touring Britain with copies of Jane Macaulay, while seeking out the very spot, for example, where Mary Queen of Scots married Bothell. Embracing a contained life of sociability abroad, black abolitionists deferred to the gentility that best enacted it; sometimes their deference served some point of antislavery, and often, it did not. What exactly does it mean for ex-slaves to defer? Whether tactical or sincere, the rituals and performances of deference served to include blacks within a model of British society that many Americans revered. The chapter also considers the moments when the esteem black abolitionists showed and the functional play of sociability they sought were not perhaps the lies that would make such acts only instrumental to something else. Thus, while black abolitionists never fail to remind Americans that Britain had ended slavery and deserved regard for its better attitude toward race, there is a quality of excess in the expression of this regard that suggests a more complex projection onto the forms of Englishness.

Keywords:   Anglicization, antislavery, black abolitionists, ex-slaves, blacks, British society

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