Book Review: We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848


by Mischa Honeck

Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011. Pp. xx, 236. Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $24.95. ISBN: 0820338230

The suppression of the European revolutionary outbreaks of 1848-1849 caused many people to flee to the United States.  The largest such group consisted of Germans, many well educated veterans of the uprising.  In We are the Revolutionists, Prof. Honeck (German Historical Institute, Washington) takes a look at the “Red-‘48” German immigrants and their interactions with and influence on not only the American anti-slavery movement, but, albeit to a lesser extent, other reform movements of the period, such as women’s and workers’ rights, and even socialism. 

Honeck weaves through his account a look at generational differences in the political and social outlook of what might be termed three waves of German immigrants, those who arrived before the revolutions, the revolutionary migrants, and those who arrived after Reconstruction.  He notes that the older German-American community was usually more conservative and those arriving after Reconstruction generally bought into the “Reconciliation” myth, while some of the old radicals became conservatives.  Honeck covers many topics, from the liberal German attempt to form free labor settlements in Texas, the strong streak of abolitionism in the feminist movement, German volunteerism during the Civil war, and so forth, including the persecution of Germans in the Confederacy during the Civil War. 

A valuable book for those interested in the abolitionist, labor,and feminist movements, immigration and assimilation, and the social roots of the Civil War and German participation in that conflict.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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