Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism

College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America

By J. Brent Morris

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 30 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4559-9
    Published: August 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-1827-2
    Published: September 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1828-9
    Published: September 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4414-9
    Published: September 2014

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Awards & distinctions

Henry Howe Book Award, Ohio Genealogical Society

By exploring the role of Oberlin--the college and the community--in fighting against slavery and for social equality, J. Brent Morris establishes this "hotbed of abolitionism" as the core of the antislavery movement in the West and as one of the most influential reform groups in antebellum America. As the first college to admit men and women of all races, and with a faculty and community comprised of outspoken abolitionists, Oberlin supported a cadre of activist missionaries devoted to emancipation, even if that was through unconventional methods or via an abandonment of strict ideological consistency. Their philosophy was a color-blind composite of various schools of antislavery thought aimed at supporting the best hope of success. Though historians have embraced Oberlin as a potent symbol of egalitarianism, radicalism, and religious zeal, Morris is the first to portray the complete history behind this iconic antislavery symbol.

In this book, Morris shifts the focus of generations of antislavery scholarship from the East and demonstrates that the West’s influence was largely responsible for a continuous infusion of radicalism that helped the movement stay true to its most progressive principles.

About the Author

J. Brent Morris is professor of history at Clemson University.
For more information about J. Brent Morris, visit the Author Page.


"Provides a thorough overview of the significant role played by Oberlin in abolition and antislavery."--Journal of American History

“Morris provides an insightful analysis of a college and community at the vanguard of abolition...Scholars and students of American history, antebellum reform, and Ohio history will enjoy Morris’s energetic prose and engaging work.”--American Historical Review

“A necessary and refreshing departure from the standard story of abolitionism.”--The Journal of Southern History

“Will invariably interest those eager to understand the historical relationship between the liberal arts and social activism.”--History of Education Quarterly

“An engaging and well-written narrative. . . . Anyone with an interest in the history of Oberlin, higher education, the abolitionist movement, and researching these topics, should seriously consider adding Oberlin: Hotbed of Abolitionism to their library.”--Journal of African American History

“Beautifully and clearly written, and makes for an enjoyable read for readers of this journal who seek a focused history of the Midwest’s relevance to national politics and activism.”--Middle West Review