On July 28, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was declared in effect, after the required 28 states had ratified the bill that was propsed in 1866. The amendment guaranteed due process and the equal protection of the laws to former slaves. This was one of three “Reconstruction Amendments” meant to restructure the U.S. from a land divided into free citizens and slaves to one in which every person was free. According to historian Julie Roy Jeffrey, in the rush to mend fences after the Civil War, the memory of the past faded and turned romantic — slaves became quaint, owners kindly, and the war itself a noble struggle for the Union.
In Abolitionists Remember: Antislavery Autobiographies and the Unfinished Work of Emancipation, Jeffrey illuminates a second antislavery struggle as abolitionists in the postwar period attempted to counter the nation’s growing inclination to forget why the war was fought, what slavery was really like, and why the abolitionist cause was so important. Jeffrey examines the autobiographical writings of former abolitionists such as Laura Haviland, Frederick Douglass, Parker Pillsbury, and Samuel J. May, revealing that they wrote not only to counter the popular image of themselves as fanatics, but also to remind readers of the harsh reality of slavery and to advocate equal rights for African Americans.