Bonner on Frederick Douglass’s Compressed, Expanding World | @AAIHS

Christopher Bonner writes:

“As Douglass saw it, technological development enhanced political work. Steamships brought news from Europe in as few as fifteen days, which struck him as an immediate kind of knowledge that allowed a localized movement to exert a broad and seemingly instant influence. “A revolution now cannot be confined to the place or the people where it may commence, but flashes with lightning speed from heart to heart, from land to land, till it has traversed the globe.” News of France’s revolution moved “like a bolt of living thunder,” and cast “a ray of hope” into the dark corners of “American slave pens” inspiring the oppressed to join a struggle against tyranny in its diverse manifestations. Maritime technology, electric wiring, and print culture gave France’s revolution that broad power. Douglass’s own commentary made the revolution an Atlantic phenomenon, as he framed it as an attack on American slaveholders. “Thank God for the event! Slavery cannot always reign.”

We are living in the world Douglass invoked, defined by instantaneous communication, uncontainable ideas, and the complicated power of technology…”

Read the rest: Frederick Douglass’s Compressed, Expanding World | AAIHS

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