How do reformers use ideology in sociopolitical struggle?
Underneath all social and political struggle is a confrontation of ideology, which is a system of beliefs and principles that govern the actions of individuals and groups. In my essays, I looked at how reformers used ideology, both their own set of ideals and the ideals of those they were fighting against, to change systems and influence society and politics. In exploring this question I first looked at Phillis Wheatley’s poem “On Being Brought from Africa” and explored how Wheatley used dominant and oppressive ideologies in the service of liberatory goals. From there, I turned to a Frederick Douglass editorial entitled “Cast off the Mill-stone” and analyzed how Douglass again used culturally dominant narratives and metaphors from Christianity to critique slavery and moderate politics. My last close reading examined Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” specifically the differences in strategy between the “White moderate” and King, and how King developed a critique of moderate, passive political action through the criticism he received. My final essay continued to analyze the major themes of the previous pieces in one specific historical situation. I explored how Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass converged on both strategy and ideology around the 1864 election, an arguably improbable outcome that shows how the context and circumstances influenced their goals and decisions. In order to understand what reformers are fighting for and their strategies for getting there, we must first understand the nuances and complexities in their own ideologies and the ideologies they fight against in pursuit of freedom and justice.