In “George T. Downing and the ‘Fraternal Unity of Man’: The Battle for an Abolition Democracy in Nineteenth-Century America,” Erik J. Chaput and Russell J. DeSimone argue that Newport entrepreneur George T. Downing’s leadership role in the national fight for racial justice was especially significant in the period after the Civil War when Black leaders pushed for an extension of rights to formerly enslaved people in the South as well as to Blacks in the North who endured racial oppression. While holding significant positions in a movement to establish racial equality, Downing led the fight for the de-segregation of Rhode Island schools in the 1850s and 1860s. Then, in the postwar period, he took a visible national leadership role in lobbying for legislation that would bolster the civil rights of all people of color. It was a time when many members of the Republican party, formerly the foremost advocates for abolition and racial justice, turned their backs on the fight to end segregation, repression of voting rights and restrictions of citizenship. In their essay, the authors draw on numerous sources, including accounts of “Colored” Conventions that took place in Northern cities in the prewar period.

Erik Chaput is the author of The People’s Martyr: Thomas Wilson Dorr and His 1842 Rhode Island Rebellion (2013); Russell DeSimone has published a detailed study, Broadsides of the Dorr Rebellion (1992). They have both penned dozens of articles for the Providence Journal, the online journal Common-Place, the Newport History v v New England Journal of History, and the Small State Big History website. Together Chaput and DeSimone will publish a one-volume collection of the Selected Writings of Thomas Wilson Dorr later this year. They are currently collaborating on a monograph on the life and career of George T. Downing.