My honors project focuses on James Miller McKim’s role in abolitionism leading up to, during, and following the Civil War. I am creating these blog posts in order to keep myself organized, to explain my research process, and to reveal my progress. The finished thesis will be around 60-75 pages, complete with three major chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion. Each of the chapters will be approximately 20-25 pages. As of now, I plan to lay out the chapters chronologically as opposed to thematically. If organized thematically, each of the chapters would have a parallel structure in the basic arc, beginning with the same moment, which would most likely be McKim’s travels to Port Royal, and then diverging into emphases on McKim’s involvement with the enlistment of black soldiers, the re-election campaign for President Abraham Lincoln, and the reconstruction of the nation. However, I am worried that if I write thematically, the chapters will be too discontinuous even with the parallel structure. The paper might end up reading like three separate articles as opposed to connected chapters. Writing chronologically, I will be able to maintain parallel structure by creating symmetrical points within chapters, while also allowing my research to flow continuously throughout the three chapters.
The thesis will focus on 1859 to 1869 because little research has been completed regarding the abolitionists during the Civil War and even less has been conducted on McKim’s role later in his life. Chapters will be broken down between 1859 and 1862, 1862 and 1864, and 1864 and 1869. The first will begin in 1859 with McKim’s support of John Brown’s wife following Brown’s insurrection and execution. That chapter will look at McKim’s pre-Civil War involvement with abolitionists, his shift from being an absolute pacifist to supporting secession to rid the nation of slavery, and his resignation from the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. It will end with him traveling to Port Royal in 1862. The next chapter will begin with McKim’s time at Port Royal, his involvement in the Port Royal experiment, his rallying for black enlistment and troops, and his support of Lincoln’s re-election. The final chapter will begin with Lincoln’s re-election and discuss McKim’s emphasis on freedmen relief societies, his first publication of the Nation, and his focus on the desegregation of Philadelphia street cars. In setting up the chapters with these years, I will be able to break down this important decade and articulate McKim’s major shifts in focus throughout it.