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Spiritual friendship and social justice

The Transcendentalists practiced the art of forming and maintaining spiritual friendships transcending differences of gender, social location, theology, politics, and race.

John A. Buehrens | 9/1/2019 | Fall 2019
Photo collage of 6 spiritual friends, from top left: Theodore Parker, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Fuller, James Freeman Clarke, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Lewis Hayden

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895, top center) revered his friend Theodore Parker (1810–1860, top left), the Transcendentalist and radical Unitarian minister. James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888, bottom left), Unitarian minister, epitomized spiritual friendship among the Transcendentalists: He and Margaret Fuller (1810–1850, top right) maintained a friendship from young adulthood until Fuller’s tragic death. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–1894, bottom center) ran a bookstore that was a hub of Transcendentalist friendships. Abolitionist Lewis Hayden (1811–1889, bottom right) aided fugitives from slavery. (Photo illustration © 2019 Sarah Hickok/UUA; images: public domain, Alamy Stock Photo, Bettmann, Alamy Stock Photos, Corbis Historical, public domain)