My essay, "Building The Future: White Women, African American Education, and Civic Inclusion in Antebellum Ohio,” appears in the Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of the Early Republic.
This essay traces the origins of the Ohio Ladies' Education Society, a women’s antislavery organization dominated by white women who campaigned for African American education. Historians writing about women’s antislavery work tend to privilege the East, particularly cities such as Boston and Philadelphia. This essay moves the discussion of women’s antislavery work to the Old Northwest.
For nearly a decade, white women abolitionists in the Ohio Ladies' Education Society filed petitions pushing for African American access to common schools, raised funds to support black independent schools, and recruited and compensated teachers who taught in Ohio’s black settlements. In this article, I argue that the predominantly white female leadership of this organization was drawn to the cause of African American education because they envisioned schooling as a route for African Americans to gain civic inclusion, at the local level and beyond. In their work, these leaders actually redefined the meaning and practice of civic inclusion, wherein the best citizens were learned, moral, and benevolent Christians who participated fully in the civic affairs of a community.
This essay demonstrates how the fight for abolition and African American education converged in the battleground of small, rural towns in Ohio.