“I just think goodness is more interesting. Evil is constant. You can think of different ways to murder people, but you can do that at age five. But you have to be an adult to consciously, deliberately be good – and that’s complicated.”– Toni Morrison, from an interview in February 2016
Early teaching of the Society of Friends – Quakers – instilled the discipline of pacifism and equality. Individuals within the faith picked up those tenets, some more assertively, others less so, and became involved in putting the beliefs into action. A broadening study of history includes their efforts to influence others, even those outside their faith, through example.
The American Battlefield Trust is a non-profit organization that preserves and protects land on which America’s battles were fought. It, rightly, conserves that land as “hallowed ground.” However, the organization knows that not all our nation’s battles were fought with rifles or while marching to drums. The Battlefield Trust website has a short essay about Quakers’ early effort to end slavery. It is good that the story of our shared American history is ever expanding.
A more thorough analysis of Quaker involvement with the issue of slavery is on the Bryn Mawr College research/history website, here.
Social reform is having a cultural moment, something which Quakers would – and do – support. PBS’ Frontline documentary about abolitionist and suffragette, Lucretia Mott, is here. Mott, with husband James, came to Loudoun County, Virginia in 1842, during her anti-slavery speaking tour. Mott spoke at Goose Creek meeting, and the couple stayed at the home of their friends, Samuel and Elizabeth Janney. Lucretia Mott addressed Washington D.C.’s halls of Congress while on this trip south. She was 76 lbs (76 lbs!) of determination, and a true example of author Toni Morrison’s observation that “goodness is more interesting.” Mott didn’t need a gun or uniform to be a fighter in America’s violent, ongoing battles for justice.
The day by day process of action, influence and change is continuing. Goodness is contagious. The templates for justice are already struck. History is expanding. Sometimes the bravest of the brave wore petticoats.