Award Date

May 2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Committee Member

Elizabeth White-Nelson

Second Committee Member

John Hay

Third Committee Member

Michael Green

Fourth Committee Member

Gregory Brown

Number of Pages

113

Abstract

My thesis focuses on the abolitionist movement in America through the lens of forgotten abolitionist, Orson S. Murray. Murray was an original member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) and was editor of the Vermont Baptists’ denominational newspaper from 1835-1843. Like other abolitionists, Murray used the press as his pulpit to facilitate abolitionist thought with a Christian influence. Murray’s use of the press to circulate his abolitionist thought was however understood by the Vermont Baptist Committee as an agitating disruption toward the unity of the broader Baptist community. After Murray’s informal excommunication, it increased his skepticism of religion and caused him to abandon the Christian faith. Subsequently, Murray rebuked Christianity and increasingly critiqued the Bible as fallible document unfit as platform for members of the AASS. For the remainder of Murray’s life, he advocated abolitionists must abandon the Bible as a moral platform for abolition. Murray’s story reveals unnoticed nuances about both denominational schisms and the Bible as source of contention within the AASS. With Murray as a lens, we understand the effect denominational schisms had on the AASS and their inevitable turn toward the popularization of moderate anti-slavery sentiments. Murray’s exemplary doubt of Christianity helps scholars of the abolitionist movement understand the AASS in a different light. Focusing on the AASS and the sacrifices they made throughout the movement, we understand broader anti-slavery movement as inconsistent and non-linear.

Keywords

Abolitionism; American Anti-Slavery Society; Bible; Christianity; Orson S. Murray

Disciplines

United States History

Language

English

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