chapter  1
Introduction
Pages 21

In neat rows facing the platform, the curious and the committed file into their seats to hear a series of abolitionist speakers. The setting is a public hall, rented for the occasion, and the hall is indeed “public” in many senses. The feeling of publicness, the stifling atmosphere of social restrictions, dominates behavior. We can see the weight of social pressure even in this electric abolition atmosphere where speakers are known to overturn traditional norms about race, as well as gender and class.