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Fear of miscegenation in the antebellum riots of New York 1834, Boston 1835, and Philadelphia 1838

Rivera, Alicia J.
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. History
Degree Supervisor:
John Majewski
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
African American Studies and History, United States
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

A frequently occurring disturbance among northern urban centers in antebellum America was racially-motivated mob violence against abolitionists and African Americans. My dissertation undertakes comparative analysis of incidents of anti-abolitionist and anti-Black mob violence in three major Northeastern cities: New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. I propose that the major cause for these incidents was fear of the social/romantic and/or sexual mixing of African Americans and Whites.

To research this question, I examined data collected from primary sources stored in or held by the Rare Books and Manuscripts of the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library, the New York Historical Society, the Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and Syracuse University, and included digitized newspapers of the period. Published primary sources were also consulted, as well as secondary sources on or related to the subject. I was impressed by the relationship I found between some of the antebellum violence against abolitionists and their supporters, and the repeated expressed fear and hatred of amalgamation (whether real or perceived as real). Even though others had mentioned the possibility of this relationship, no one had explored it in depth. At the end of the research phase of this work I saw how fear and hatred of amalgamation/miscegenation arose again in the late 19th century and the first five decades of the 20th century, thus attesting to the power of an ideology to foster violence.

My work begins with a brief history of the formation of the discourse of amalgamation/miscegenation and the historiography on the subject. It follows with a detailed narrative of the three riots in the cities mentioned. Then it offers an analysis of the unique role that abolitionist women played in these three riots, by unintentionally inciting the mob as they stepped out of their customary, socially sanctioned roles. A detailed analysis of the vital role of the anti-abolitionist media in inciting to violence and the abolitionists' response to it follows. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of the reasons for the decline of anti-abolitionist violence. It also offers a succinct look into the relationship between fear of miscegenation and lynching, asserting that the southern lynching mobs were driven by the same fear that fueled the mobs in the three northern cities examined.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (202 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Alicia Rivera
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