Wendell Phillips in the News

A J Aiséirithe's March 21, 2012 fascinating New York Times Article: Mr. Phillips goes to Washington

Who Was Wendell Phillips, and Why Should Anyone Care?

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) was a national celebrity known for his public speaking during the Civil War. For most of his life he read, thought, spoke, and wrote a great deal about how to build public opinion in favor of social justice.

A Mayflower descendant and graduate of Harvard College and Law School, Wendell Phillips was, among other things:

  • a white person who worked for more than forty years to promote equal rights for black Americans.
  • a man who championed women's rights.
  • one who inherited wealth but argued for the rights of workers.
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Why A Bicentennial?

Despite this remarkable record as an activist for social justice, Wendell Phillips was neither an angel nor a saint. Instead he was a human being with flaws, limitations, blind spots, and prejudices of his own. He was a thinker and a doer about social and political issues, whose thoughts and ideas grew and changed over the course of his life.

Occurring in the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the 200th anniversary of his birth offers an opportunity to reflect on the Civil War, the ending of slavery, the legacy of abolitionists, and to ask questions about social justice that are still relevant today:

  • what are the advantages, and perhaps pitfalls, of white people’s taking prominent roles in movements around issues affecting people of color?
  • what happens to a movement as its goal nears fulfillment?
  • are forms of oppression related? And are they best fought one by one, or all at once?

Join community activists, public historians and interpreters, students and teachers, scholars and neighbors in a celebration, commemoration and reflection on June 2 - 4, 2011.

Activities during the bicentennial weekend include:

  • keynote address by James Brewer Stewart, Phillips biographer and founder of Historians Against Slavery, an organization fighting human trafficking
  • professional development workshop for teachers
  • exhibition of Phillips-related material at the Houghton Library (which holds the largest collection of Phillips' papers, as well as material on his relationship with Harvard University), and a reception to celebrate its opening
  • symposium on Wendell Phillips' Life and Legacy (tentative program attached)
  • walking tour (offered twice)
  • two discussions on interracial activism past and present - one at the end of the symposium, and another at Old South Meeting House (a historic building that Phillips helped preserve)

>> Details

Other Bicentennials

200 Years of Wendell Phillips

November 11, 2011 6-8PM, St. Paul's Church East 28th Street and 15th Avenue South Minneapolis

On 11-11-11, Meet Wendell Phillips, 19th Century civil rights advocate, namesake of the PHILLIPS COMMUNITY and still a pertinent model of defining issues of injustice, advocating for universal "justice if possible peace at any rate," and mobilizing people for change through clear, dynamic oratory.


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This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sponsors and partners in the Wendell Phillips Bicentennial also include:


Contact Information:

Email: wendellphillips.bicentennial@gmail.com