Moral Imagination and Civil Disobedience

The Underground Railroad has been described as a work of moral imagination. The term “moral imagination” can be traced back to the writer Edmund Burke who lived in the 18th century. Burke was concerned about the dramatic changes undertaken by French revolutionaries. He felt they were challenging the established customs and institutions of civil society.

The famous American writer and thinker Henry David Thoreau argued that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences, their sense of what is right or just. He said everyone has a duty to avoid allowing a government to make them agents of injustice. Acting on this belief leads to civil disobedience. The concepts of moral imagination and civil disobedience are the foundation of the Underground Railroad.

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