The William Whipper Arguments and the Push for Color-Blind Abolitionism in the Antebellum North


  • Lauryn Aviles Tulane University


This essay examines 1830s Black abolitionist rhetoric through periodicals in order to map preferred and unpreferred terms of Black self-reference as immediatism in abolition took root. More specifically, this essay homes in on the local conversation surrounding racial monikers in Black-elite Philadelphia-based abolitionist circles and pays particular attention to one activist, William Whipper, who spurred a decade-long debate over an appropriate moniker to refer to Black people as he took a much contested, color-blind stance towards abolition. This essay concludes by asserting a unified Black epithet of self-reference alone could not overcome the layered oppression of enslavement and the entrenched racism in 1830s America. However, the quest for a moniker that spoke to the variability in Black identity was a valiant attempt by Black people to shift the narrative that blackness was not an inherently degrading condition; rather, the assertion of blackness via a Black epithet was a testament of Black belonging in an America which had been built by and sustained on Black people.