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July 14: Wilhelm Rapp, Abolitionist

July 14, 2013

s-s-civil-war-baltimore-riotWilhelm Rapp, an emigré from the 1848 revolution in the German states who became an active abolitionist in the U.S., was born in southern Germany on this date in 1827. Rapp edited German-language newspapers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, where his anti-slavery views made him a target of mob violence in that Confederate-sympathizing city; during the 1861 riot against Union troops passing through Baltimore, Rapp had to flee for his life to Washington, D.C. (disguised as a minister). Another prominent abolitionist Jew, Rabbi David Einhorn, was also driven from Baltimore during the same riot. While in the capital, Rapp met with President Abraham Lincoln, who asked him to serve as postmaster general. Rapp declined the post and moved to Chicago to edit the Illinois Staats-Zeitung. He remained in Chicago until his death in 1907.

“[M]any strains of Western and Jewish thought converged in the mid-19th century to produce the particular emotional and intellectual intensity of the Jewish anti-slavery movement. The Haskalah, emancipation, and the liberal ideas of the 1848 revolutions were all synthesized in an American environment . . . The Jewish abolitionists made telling parallels between Poland, Russia, the Germanic states, and America; between women and Blacks, and Jews and Blacks.” —Jayme A. Sokolow in Jews and the Civil War: A Reader