Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was a writer, philosopher, and leader of the transcendental movement, as well as a dedicated abolitionist. Born in Boston, Emerson was educated at the Harvard Divinity School and ordained in 1829. After his wife’s death from tuberculosis in 1831, Emerson resigned from the church and traveled to Europe. There he was influenced by other intellectuals in his thinking about spirituality. After returning to the United States in 1833, Emerson re-married and began lecturing on spiritual matters as he developed his transcendentalist philosophy. In 1836, he published his first book, Nature. In 1837 he delivered his “American Scholar” address, which called for American intellectual independence from European traditions. In 1840, with Margaret Fuller, he began editing and writing for The Dial, a transcendentalist literary journal. Before emancipation, Emerson also lectured about slavery and called for immediate abolition. Emerson continued writing and lecturing until his death in 1882.

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