Professor tells abolitionist story in ‘Very Short’ book

Anti-slavery struggles were the inspiration for today’s social justice movements
The cover art for Newman's book "Abolitionism: A very short introduction."

From the Underground Railroad and legal aid for oppressed people to legislative lobbying and military service, a new book, written by Rochester Institute of Technology History Professor Richard Newman, Abolitionism: A Very Short Introduction, talks about the importance of anti-slavery struggles in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The 176-page book is part of Oxford University Press’s “Very Short Introduction” series, which has sold millions of copies around the world.

“This series is aimed at creating succinct, readable books on key topics for general readers as well as specialists,” Newman said. “Even though this is a short book, I wanted to show that the struggle against racial injustice was a long process and continued well after the Civil War. I also wanted to show that Rochester’s own Frederick Douglass played a key role in the movement before, during and after the Civil War.”

The book is filled with portraits of notable abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, Anthony Benezet, Richard Allen and Angelina Grimké, and highlights their focus on social and political action. They employed every conceivable means to attack slavery and racial injustice and helped bring down slavery, the most profitable institution in the American society at the time.

They also inspired generations of reformers, right down to the present.

“The book shows that abolition was the first major social movement in American and global society and that it has influenced almost every reform struggle since the 19th century, including movements in our time such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and anti-sex trafficking,” Newman said.

He first thought about writing this book after hosting a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on abolition for high school teachers in 2006 in Philadelphia.

The book is available at most book stores and through

liberal arts

Recommended News

  • March 17, 2019

    Video game graphic in 8-bit style of a city with text: Ball of Doom

    RIT heads to Game Developers Conference 2019

    More than 100 RIT students, faculty, alumni and staff are visiting San Francisco this week to attend Game Developers Conference 2019, the world’s largest professional gaming industry event of the year. The RIT MAGIC Spell Studios booth is displaying four games created at RIT.

  • March 13, 2019

    Head-and-shoulders view of man with glasses

    New research unlocking the secrets of how languages change

    New research is helping scientists around the world understand what drives language change, especially when languages are in their infancy. The results will shed light on how the limitations of the human brain change language and provide an understanding of the complex interaction between languages and the human beings who use them.

  • March 13, 2019

    Researcher stands in front of TV screen surrounded by small speakers

    Team receives grant to recreate the ‘sound signature’ of cultural heritage sites

    Advanced audio technologies being developed are helping to preserve the unique sounds of historic sites from recording studios in Nashville, Tenn., to a pre-Columbian archeological site in Peru. Sungyoung Kim, an associate professor of audio engineering at RIT, is leading a team of researchers to develop a set of tools using advanced augmented and virtual reality technology to preserve and replicate the acoustics of historical venues.