Attempted Utopian Society Nashoba

About the attempted utopian society Nashoba founded by Frances Wright, history, population, economic and social structure.

Name of Utopia: NASHOBA

Founder: Frances Wright was born in 1795 to a prosperous Scots family. She 1st became known for her essays on morality. Upon staying in New Harmony, she was converted to the ideals of communitarianism.

Where and When: Founded in 1826. While at New Harmony, Wright began thinking of communal associations as a way to cope with the problem of slavery. She created a plan that she felt would solve the difficulty: Settle slaves in village cooperatives where they could learn skills for survival and self-reliance-"schools of industry" where their excess earnings would be set aside to pay for their freedom and for passage to Africa. She founded Nashoba with 15 blacks and several whites, near Memphis, Tenn., on 2,000 acres of land. The community lasted 4 years.

Political and Social Structure: Despite egalitarian ideals, whites were firmly in control. Wright appointed a group of trustees, all white, to act as overseers when she was away. Blacks were considered to need more education before they could be socially responsible.

Property and Distribution of Goods: All labor was done cooperatively, survival needs taken out of a common pool, tools of production treated as if they were communal property. Private property existed only in personal effects.

Family/Marriage/Sex: Wright felt that the emancipation of humanity meant "desire unleashed and fulfilled," that the nuclear family should be abolished along with religion, private property, and black slavery. In Nashoba blacks and whites slept together, the only sexual restraints being lack of mutual desire.

Place of Women: Wright thought marriage a master-slave relationship with women as slaves. "In wedded life the woman sacrifices her independence and becomes part of the property of her husband . . . this inflicts a crushing penalty on the woman and brands with infamy the offspring of love." At Nashoba, women were in all ways equal to men.

Why the Experiment Ended: News of the experiment leaked out, creating a scandal in the area. But the main problems were economic: Not enough was being produced to pay for upkeep, much less pay off debts. In desperation, they attempted to replace the co-operative society with one based on small individual private property and individual income from productive labor. When it became clear that this too would not succeed financially, the land was sold. In 1830 the blacks were taken to Haiti and given their freedom.

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