Drawn from the Old Testament and possessing a deep political history, the idea of Jubilee suffused the culture of American abolitionism. The idea appeared in songs and speeches and adorned the mastheads of antislavery papers. By charting its evolution within a movement, this essay explains how the concept came to acquire such cultural and political standing. It argues that the idea attained its special currency because it offered abolitionism something that all great social movements need—a collective means of imaging profound political change. Indeed, as a theory of history with millennial connotations, Jubilee encased the movement’s faith in moral progress and divine inevitability in a powerful and accessible idea. As such, this essay shows how it eventually became the central tenet in a new political language designed to activate this faith and mobilize it for use within the politics of the movement.


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pp. 298-318
Launched on MUSE
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