A Second and More Glorious Revolution: Protest and Radical Thought in the Nineteenth-Century United States


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

Socialist communes; antislavery insurrections; strikes and riots; Free Love dance parties: the nineteenth-century United States bubbled over with schemes to overthrow the existing social order at a time that is too often misremembered as conservative or “Victorian.” Students in this seminar will explore the literature and culture of American radicalism, discovering the forgotten historical precursors of contemporary social movements like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Me Too. We will read revolutionary manifestoes, convention proceedings, black nationalist novels, and newspapers that advocated the abolition of slavery, capitalism, marriage, and the private home. Though they tirelessly critiqued the nation’s injustices, these activists regarded themselves as the true heirs of the American founders, striving to make good on the utopian promise of the American Revolution and rout out the entrenched social inequalities that had marred the project from its beginnings. Focusing primarily on Massachusetts – and often on Worcester specifically – we will approach the history of social justice activism, and its international implications, from our local context. Pairing assigned readings with primary materials drawn from the unsurpassed collections of the American Antiquarian Society, this seminar provides students with a unique opportunity for guided, hands-on archival research into the texts, movements, and ideas that shaped the culture of radical dissent and the course of American history.

Seminar Leader