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Human Rights Discourse in the Antebellum Black Press

Human Rights and Media

ISBN: 978-0-76230-052-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-695-3

Publication date: 14 October 2011


The resolution of the slavery issue in the United States may have had more to do with economic development and political power than a shift in public morality, but there can be no question that abolitionist discourse played a major role in the expansion of America's republican vision in the nineteenth century. In the human rights discourse of the black abolitionists, ideological conflict centers on the dimensions of reification and fragmentation. Potential answers to the rights question – who is to be included in the American republic? – involve contentious claims about group identities. To examine systematically the strategic use of the jeremiad as a human rights argument in the black abolitionist discourse, this research produced a content analysis study of the antebellum black press in New York State. The findings present the hegemonic discourse and the case that the human rights argument could not have been made without simultaneously undermining the hegemonic view. The black abolitionist discourse in antebellum New York State was the first American experience with the jeremiad as a human rights argument and would not be the last.


Shortell, T. (2011), "Human Rights Discourse in the Antebellum Black Press", Papademas, D. (Ed.) Human Rights and Media (Studies in Communications, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 121-137.



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