Transcendentalism Was As Diverse As Modern America, But It Isn't Taught That Way

Transcendentalism Was As Diverse As Modern America, But It Isn't Taught That Way

Rich white men are not the only ones who held sway over our past. We need to recognize that, and we need to embrace it.


In my English class, the main subject is the Transcendentalists. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Transcendentalism was a time period in American history occurring between the times of 1830 and 1900. It was mostly a literary movement (hence why I have such a keen interest in it) and was characterized by moving away from traditional church doctrine, an embracing of rationality, and an intense belief in divinity pervading all aspects of nature, including the human soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two of the most well-known transcendentalists, but other influential people of the time included one of the original feminist icons Margaret Fuller, the educational revolutionary Elizabeth Peabody, and the African American abolitionist and activist William C. Nell. I find it incredibly interesting and very telling about the state of our nation, then and now, that the final three names listed are less famous than the former two.

Emerson and Thoreau were both eloquent speakers and writers, and their audiences often exceeded numbers in the hundreds. Their writing styles and the content of their essays hold influence over American writing even to this day. If we as a society are bestowing fame upon people based on their legacy's and their influence, then both men are certainly worthy of remembrance. Based on that criteria, however, then are Fuller, Peabody, and Nell not also incredibly worthy of such remembrance?

Margaret Fuller wrote The Great Lawsuit, in which she condemns those who practice slavery as being without divine love, and later states that women and men have no real difference in their souls, and that "there is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman," an idea that has been reiterated time and time again by psychologists and feminists writers such as Simone de Beauvoir.

Elizabeth Peabody assisted Amos Bronson Alcott in his development of the experimental Temple School. Her belief that children's play and individual development is essential to their learning and understanding of their school teachings became a pillar in the educational system, and her concepts are used in school systems all across modern America.

William C. Nell was a black journalist, abolitionist, and civil rights activist during the mid-1800s, and he worked towards integrating school systems in Massachusetts. His written works include personal accounts of his experiences assisting with the Underground Railroad and recording other African Americans' stories of slavery, freedom, and personal lives. Thanks to his research and accounts, we have knowledge of cemetery records, the first-hand accounts of many experiences of black people of the nineteenth century, and the recorded and remembered name of Crispus Attucks (the first martyr of the Revolutionary War). Nell worked side by side with both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass.

It has struck me recently, during my class over the Transcendentalist Movement, that these names, despite all the work and influence that they have over America, are names that I have never heard of and was never taught in school until now, in this very focused class. The only Transcendentalists that I had heard of up to this point were those of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and Channing.

They are the names of the people who were considered, during their time, to be the most relevant. They were white, they were wealthy, and they were men. They are the legacy of the Transcendentalist movement, even though they played but a small part in the development and reach of the movement. For a time period that apparently represents and defines America to this day, the actual representation seems very narrow.

We are a nation filled with diverse people, of diverse backgrounds, a rainbow not only in the color of our skin but in the range of our experiences. We need to show this, not only in modern media (which has certainly made leaps and bounds recently in the area of inclusion) but also in how we show our history.

Rich white men are not the only ones who held sway over our past. We need to recognize that, and we need to embrace it.

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.


I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Dear Young Voices Of America, Stand Up, Speak Up, And Do Something

Our time is now.


Dear young voices of America, I think we can both agree that we are sick of being told we are America's future while simultaneously being told our opinions don't matter. Now I personally do not listen to the people that tell me I'm better seen than heard; however, I know there are people that are a little timider when it comes to raising their voices. I am here to encourage you to be loud and speak up on topics that matter to you. There is no better time than the present to make your voice heard. Whether you are advocating for change in your school or the government, your opinion matters and is relevant.

We are the future of our country. How are we supposed to evoke change and reform if we can't have our voices heard? I call bullshit and I think it's time to take action. Even if you're the first or only person to advocate for your cause, be that person. Don't be afraid of anyone that tries to stand in your way. The only person that can stop you from speaking up for yourself and your cause is you. No matter how many nos you have to hear to get a yes or how many doors you have to knock on to get someone to open up, never give up. Never give up on your cause, never give up on yourself or the people you're representing, just don't do it. There is someone out there that supports you. Maybe they're just too shy to raise their voice too. Be encouraging and be supportive and get people to take a stand with you.

It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future or to take action. But don't hesitate to say something. The sooner you start speaking up, the sooner you have people joining you and helping you, and the sooner you start to see and experience change. So get up, make that sign, write that letter, make that phone call, take part in that march, give that speech. Do whatever you feel fit to get your point across. Shout it from the rooftops, write it on your profile, send it in a letter, ignore everyone that tries to tell you to give up. Maybe they don't understand now, maybe they don't want to listen, maybe they're afraid to listen, but the more you talk about it and help them understand what exactly you are trying to get across, they will join you.

Even when it feels like you have nobody on your side but yourself, I am on your side. I will cheer you on, I will march with you hand in hand, I will write letters and make phone calls and help you find your voice. My life changed when I found my voice and yours will too.

So dear young voices of America, the time is now. Your time is now. Don't be afraid of the obstacles that you may have to face. Someone is out there waiting for you, waiting to grab your hand and march on with you. As Tarana Burke once said "Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something."

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