For many of us, the concept of slavery may seem distant. Perhaps we've read about slavery in a history book or a novel. Or we've seen an occasional story in the newspaper describing its practice in remote parts of the world. Maybe we've watched a movie like the popular Amistad of a few years ago. The technical issue in the movie was an actual legal conflict over the interpretation of a treaty between the United States and Spain. But the legal incident provided a setting for the movie to illustrate a moment in the world's gradual journey out of the practice of slavery.
While there were heart-wrenching scenes of humankind's shameful inhumanity, there were also scenes of those who were reaching for ideals. They were struggling to win more freedom and justice for all of society. John Quincy Adams, a longtime advocate for these righteous standards, argues in the movie before the United States Supreme Court. He is portrayed as saying: "This is the most important case that has ever come before the country, because what it, in fact, concerns is the very nature of man. ... The natural state of man is freedom."
At the time of the Amistad incident and Adams' passionate argument in 1841, Mary Baker Eddy was hardly out of her teen years. Her health was already frail, and soon she would be moving to the South as a young bride, where she would have brief but firsthand exposure to what would become a major American struggle over slavery.