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Modern Voices
Margaret Washington on moral suasion
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Q: Please discuss moral suasion.
Margaret Washington

A: Moral suasion was used as an argument to end slavery, because the abolitionists felt that thinking people who were basically good people in America could be persuaded by argument that slavery was wrong; that it was wrong for moral reasons; that it was wrong for religious reasons; that the ideals on which the nation was founded were perverted by the institution of enslavement. What the abolitionists didn't realize was how deeply embedded in the social, economic, and political structure slavery was. They didn't realize how powerful the slaveocracy was. And they didn't realize how much racism had embedded the fabric of American life.

Margaret Washington
Associate Professor of History
Cornell Universiy

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