What did Lydia Maria Child mean by “the slave spirit,” in her essay "Prejudices Against People of Color?"

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Lydia Maria Child was an early abolitionist who lived in Massachusetts. She pointed out early in this essay that the people of the North, while no longer holding slaves, still had the "spirit" of slavery. What she meant by that, she said, was that the "prejudice against colored people is even more inveterate than it is at the South." Northerners were not clean of slavery, first because they held racist beliefs, and second because many wealthy people in Massachusetts were heavily invested in the institutions that supported slavery. To the first point, she observed that there were still laws in Massachusetts that prohibited interracial marriages. There were also laws forbidding blacks from staying in the state for extended periods, and efforts to provide public schooling for black children had so far proven unsuccessful. So Child concludes that prejudice against blacks, the "spirit" of slavery, was alive and well in Massachusetts.


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