In Angry Abolitionist: William Lloyd Garrison, Jules Archer allows the young adult reader to recognize Garrison’s immense contribution to the cause of freeing the slaves and his refusal to submit either to public pressure or to factional opposition within the American Anti-Slavery Society itself. He ensured that truth and a higher Christianity was served, not only in guaranteeing the rights of African Americans but also in awakening society to other injustices and hypocrisies that served profit. Archer traces the abolitionist movement from its beginnings in 1826, when Garrison assumed the editorship of the Free Press in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to its triumphal end in 1865, when the Civil War was over, emancipation was achieved, and the final issue of Garrison’s the Liberator, the most forceful voice of the antislavery cause, was published. Garrison’s continuing efforts on behalf of civil rights and his new struggle to ensure protection for the former slaves are recounted.
The chapters follow the chronology of Garrison’s life, from his birth in 1805 and his difficult childhood in the first chapter to his death in 1879 and the tributes of others acknowledging his dedication and unswerving efforts to end social injustice in the final chapter. Each title chapter focuses on the theme of that chapter, spurring the reader to recognize how the title reveals the contents. An appendix of suggested further readings lists books related to the causes that Garrison represented and to the lives of contemporary social reformers, as well as other works on abolition.
While the evolution of the abolitionist movement and the activities and principles of the American Anti-Slavery Society—with Garrison as its major force—are the chief emphases of the book, Garrison as an individual, as the proud martyr and misunderstood apostle, is given equal importance. Therefore, the reader is meant to understand that the title Angry Abolitionist is gently ironical. While Garrison lashed out at injustice, he was otherwise a gentle, benevolent person who always sought to retreat from honors and glory for himself.