“Henry Highland Garnet and the Origins of Black Politics” to be the First Featured Talk in a New Historical Society of Kent County Lecture Series
The Historical Society of Kent County is launching its “Inside the Bordley” lecture series, the Sandy and Stephen Frohock History Series, with its first event taking place October 8. That evening, Washington College’s Adam Goodheart will interview Prof. Van E. Gosse, author of a new book, The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War. Much of their conversation will be about the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet’s activism in the years before the Civil War.
It is well known in Kent County that Garnet was born into slavery only 10 miles from Chestertown and escaped to the North, eventually to become the first Black man ever to speak in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. But less familiar is his powerful leadership in and centrality to the Black political movement that began in the 1840s and grew all through the 1850s.
As Prof. Gosse notes, free Blacks voted in the North and some of the South as far back as the 1780s, including Maryland, and then, in the early 1800s, came a wave of disfranchisement to eliminate their votes. But from 1840 on, a cohort of young men in New York, New England, and Ohio re-energized Black politics, operating first in the Whig and Liberty parties, and later as Free Soilers and Republicans. Garnet was at the center of these campaigns.
Among the insights this event will offer are Garnet’s activism as a leader in the Liberty Party, his conditional support for the Republicans, amid other ventures inside and outside the U.S., his collaboration with fellow activists, including his cousin Samuel Ringgold Ward, and their complex relations with Frederick Douglass.
Van E. Gosse is Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Adam Goodheart is the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, a historian, and the author of the acclaimed national bestseller, 1861: The Civil War Awakening.
Prof. Goodheart’s interview with Prof. Gosse will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Historical Society of Kent County beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, and will be posted there for later viewing. Prof. Gosse’s book, The First Reconstruction, will be available for purchase at the Historical Society’s Bordley History Center, 301 High Street. Beginning October 1, the Center will be open Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.