Angels of Progress
The Progressive Quakers, though long forgotten by historians, were the radical seed of activist American religion in much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They included pioneer crusaders for abolition and women's rights. They denounced authoritarianism in churches and many traditional dogmas as well. They championed the application of reason to doctrine, the Bible and theology; yet they were also welcoming to the burgeoning spiritualist movement.
Come right down to it, the Progressive Friends were just damned interesting. They also shaped the contemporary liberal stream of the Quaker religious movement. Among other outstanding figures of the era, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and William Lloyd Garrison were associated with them. They deserve a much better deal from historians than they ever got. And with this book, they're finally getting it. The documents in "Angels of Progress," collected in print for the first time, trace where the Progressive Friends came from, sketch some of their outstanding leaders, detail their agenda for change in both society and spirituality and track their struggle for a voice and recognition. Beginning as a band of pacifists, it also shows their agonizing over the Civil War, which pitted one of their key values -- nonviolence, against another -- ending slavery. Then we follow their evolution and impact through the post-Civil War decades, into the first "Gilded Age," and the emergence of modern imperialism and militarism--all issues with striking contemporary resonance. It shows their ultimate success in shaping today's liberal Quakerism, even as their separate identity faded. The book includes extensive samples of their theological work, plus introductions and overviews.
Chuck Fager has been a reporter, a historical researcher, a peace activist, and a Quaker for more than forty years. His activist work beginning as a junior staff member for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama in 1965. Among his many books are histories of the Selma voting rights campaign and important antiwar struggles, plus theological studies, and novels and stories. Chuck has been interested in the Progressive Friends since 1999, when he re-discovered some key documents about the movement, which had been lost and forgotten for more than fifty years. He did the research for "Angels of Progress" during an appointment as the Cadbury Research Scholar at Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center near Philadelphia.