Though what they advocated -- an end to the enslavement of African-Americans -- is taken for granted today as the obvious and only corrective to a purely evil institution, in their own time the abolitionists of the antebellum period were commonly viewed as the worst variety of lunatic, fire-breathing radicals. Walt Whitman hated them; Abraham Lincoln, before he was elected president, mostly regarded them as dangerous and a threat to the stability of the republic. The stand they took was vastly courageous and cost many of them their lives (ask Elijah Lovejoy's and John Brown's ghosts). But they persevered and we live in a better nation today because of them. The PBS miniseries The Abolitionists uses a blend of documentary techniques and dramatized recreations to tell the story of these brave crusaders. The second episode of the series screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org), followed by a discussion. Admission is free.
Thu., Jan. 3, 2013