Chapter 2: Arm in Arm

THE SPLENDID GAS LAMPS of Pennsylvania Hall were being lit for the first time to illuminate a rare scene. Antislavery orators would stand at the polished walnut rail of the speaker’s platform in the three-thousand-seat main salon and address both sexes, seated in mixed rows—“promiscuous” audiences, the saying went. There were even female speakers.

Angelina Grimké, “the pretty Quakeress,” as one newspaper called her, changed her wedding date in order to attend the antislavery meetings. She asked only that she not be married “in such a hurry as to attend a meeting that same evening.” The tall, ill-shaven groom, Theodore Weld, renounced the law of a wife as “chattel” when he said his vows. He said little else that day—by age thirty-four he was hoarse from giving antislavery speeches over hecklers’ shouts. The wedding cake was baked with “free sugar,” not derived from the unrecompensed labor of slaves.

The leading light of both events was Angelina Grimké. She was the child of Charleston slaveholders; her father was John Faucheraud Grimké the same judge who had long ago freed Fanny Shields. As adults, Angelina, thirty-three, and her sister Sarah, forty-five, had not only turned against the slavery system; they had set out to destroy it. They had toured New England giving speeches in sixty-seven towns to forty thousand people. After they spoke, volunteers came forward. New antislavery societies sprang up. The movement was getting stronger, and its enemies took notice.

White men looked at the Grimkés and saw women associating themselves with black men. “Why are all the old hens abolitionists?” a New England paper asked. “Because not being able to obtain husbands they think they may stand some chance for a negro, if they can only make amalgamation fashionable.”

Angelina Grimké had broken precedent in February 1838 by delivering an antislavery speech to the Massachusetts legislature. One newspaper’s correspondent said her prettiness and eloquence that day “made me 19/20 of an abolitionist.” Another noted the crowds on hand for “the extraordinary phenomenon of a woman talking!”

She spoke “in excellent off-hand style, as if she were only engaged at the spinning wheel—as she ought to have been,” the Boston Post said. When, at first, legislators barred her from the rostrum, she balanced the pages of her speech on two men’s hats.

More Excerpts



View all Excerpts »


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Connect with Catto's History

Meet the Authors

When they are not writing, Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin love to talk -- especially about the book. Invite them to speak to your book club, church, college class, civil war commemoration, fraternal group, library event, historical association meeting and more.
Find out More >

Become our Fan

Follow Tasting Freedom on Facebook for announcements.

Video Introduction



We like to talk. Our publicist put us in front of a video camera, asked three questions and then crossed his fingers. We're probably a little too serious at the beginning, but we loosen up as the video goes on.
Take a look >

A Call to Arms

Click to get a closer look, you can see the name of Octavius Catto at the bottom, as well as his father's.

This broadside is eight feet high and was seen on windows in downtown Philadelphia in June, 1863, as black leaders called a meeting to convince black men to join the Union Army prior to Gettysburg.