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Abolition, Immigrant Citizenship, and the Transatlantic Movement for Irish Repeal
Irish Americans who supported the movement for the repeal of the act of parliamentary union between Ireland and Great Britain during the early 1840s encountered controversy over the issue of American slavery. Encouraged by abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic, repeal leader Daniel O’Connell often spoke against slavery, issuing appeals for Irish Americans to join the antislavery cause. With each speech, American repeal associations debated the proper response to such sentiments and often chose not to support abolition. In American Slavery, Irish Freedom, Angela F. Murphy examines the interactions among abolitionists, Irish nationalists, and American citizens as the issues of slavery and abolition complicated the first transatlantic movement for Irish independence. The call of Old World loyalties, perceived duties of American citizenship, and regional devotions collided for these Irish Americans as the slavery issue intertwined with their efforts on behalf of their homeland. By looking at the makeup and rhetoric of the American repeal associations, the pressures on Irish Americans applied by both abolitionists and American nativists, and the domestic and transatlantic political situation that helped to define the repealers’ response to antislavery appeals, Murphy investigates and explains why many Irish Americans did not support abolitionism. Murphy refutes theories that Irish immigrants rejected the abolition movement primarily for reasons of religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, or the desire to assert a white racial identity. Instead, she suggests, their position emerged from Irish Americans’ intention to assert their loyalty toward their new republic during what was for them a very uncertain time. The first book-length study of the Irish repeal movement in the United States, American Slavery, Irish Freedom conveys the dilemmas that Irish Americans grappled with as they negotiated their identity and adapted to the duties of citizenship within a slaveholding republic, shedding new light on the societal pressures they faced as the values of that new republic underwent tremendous change.
In this illuminating study, Gelien Matthews demonstrates how slave rebellions in the British West Indies influenced the tactics of abolitionists in England and how the rhetoric and actions of the abolitionists emboldened slaves. Moving between the world of the British Parliament and the realm of Caribbean plantations, Matthews reveals a transatlantic dialectic of antislavery agitation and slave insurrection that eventually influenced the dismantling of slavery in British-held territories. Focusing on slave revolts that took place in Barbados in 1816, in Demerara in 1823, and in Jamaica in 1831–32, Matthews identifies four key aspects in British abolitionist propaganda regarding Caribbean slavery: the denial that antislavery activism prompted slave revolts, the attempt to understand and recount slave uprisings from the slaves' perspectives, the portrayal of slave rebels as victims of armed suppressors and as agents of the antislavery movement, and the presentation of revolts as a rationale against the continuance of slavery. She makes shrewd use of previously overlooked publications of British abolitionists to prove that their language changed over time in response to slave uprisings. Historians previously have examined the economic, religious, and political bases for slavery's abolishment in the Caribbean, but Matthews here emphasizes the agency of slaves in the march toward freedom. Her compelling work is a valuable analytical tool in the interpretation of abolition in North America, uncovering the important connections between rebellious slaves on one side of the Atlantic and abolitionists on the other side.
Free People of Color in Barbados in the Age of Emancipation
When a small group of free men of color gathered in 1838 to celebrate the end of apprenticeship in Barbados, they spoke of emancipation as the moment of freedom for all colored people, not just the former slaves. The fact that many of these men had owned slaves themselves gives a hollow ring to their lofty pronouncements. Yet in The Children of Africa in the Colonies, Melanie J. Newton demonstrates that simply dismissing these men as hypocrites ignores the complexity of their relationship to slavery. Exploring the role of free blacks in Barbados from 1790 to 1860, Newton argues that the emancipation process transformed social relations between Afro-Barbadians and slaves and ex-slaves. Free people of color in Barbados genuinely wanted slavery to end, Newton explains, a desire motivated in part by the realization that emancipation offered them significant political advantages. As a result, free people's goals for the civil rights struggle that began in Barbados in the 1790s often diverged from those of the slaves, and the tensions that formed along class, education, and gender lines severely weakened the movement. While the populist masses viewed emancipation as an opportunity to form a united community among all people of color, wealthy free people viewed it as a chance to better their position relative to white Europeans. To this end, free people of color refashioned their identities in relationship to Africa. Prior to the 1820s, Newton reveals, they downplayed their African descent, emphasizing instead their legal status as free people and their position as owners of property, including slaves. As the emancipation debate in the Atlantic world reached its zenith in the 1820s and 1830s and whites grew increasingly hostile and inflexible, elite free people allied themselves with the politics of the working class and the slaves, relying for the first time on their African heritage and the association of their skin color with slavery to openly challenge white supremacy. After emancipation, free people of color again redefined themselves, now as loyal British imperial subjects, casting themselves in the role of political protectors of their ex-slave brethren in an attempt to escape social and political disenfranchisement. While some wealthy men of color gained political influence as a result of emancipation, the absence of fundamental change in the distribution of land and wealth left most men and women of color with little hope of political independence or social mobility. Mining a rich vein of primary and secondary sources, Newton's study elegantly describes how class divisions and disagreements over labor and social policy among free and slave black Barbadians led to political unrest and devastated the hope for an entirely new social structure and a plebeian majority in the British Caribbean.
An Annotated Critical Edition
Pennsylvanian Quaker Anthony Benezet was one of the most important and prolific abolitionists of the eighteenth century. The first to combine religious and philosophical arguments with extensive documentation of the slave trade based on eyewitness reports from Africa and the colonies, Benezet's antislavery writings served as foundational texts for activists on both sides of the Atlantic. In England, those who incorporated his work into their own writings included Granville Sharp, John Wesley, Thomas Clarkson, and William Dillwyn, while Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, David Cooper, James Forten, Absalom Jones, and Richard Allen drew inspiration from his essays in America. Despite Benezet's pervasive influence during his lifetime, David L. Crosby's annotated edition represents the first time Benezet's antislavery works are available in one book.
In addition to assembling Benezet's canon, Crosby chronicles the development of Benezet's antislavery philosophy and places the aboli-tionist's writing in historical context. Each work is preceded by an editor's note that describes the circumstances surrounding its original publication and the significance of the selection.
Benezet's writings included in this edition:
An Epistle of Caution and Advice Concerning the Buying and Keeping of Slaves (1754)Observations on the Enslaving, Importing, and Purchasing of Negroes (1759--1760)A Short Account of that Part of Africa Inhabited by the Negroes (1762)A Caution and Warning to Great Britain and Her Colonies (1766--1767)Some Historical Account of Guinea (1771)Benezet's Notes to John Wesley's Thoughts upon Slavery (1774)Observations on Slavery (1778)Short Observations on Slavery (1783)
A valuable tool for scholars and students of African American history, slavery studies, and the Revolutionary era, The Complete Antislavery Writings of Anthony Benezet, 1754--1783 demonstrates the prevailing impact of the foremost pioneer in American abolitionism.
The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777–1827
An innovative blend of cultural and political history, Emancipating New York is the most complete study to date of the abolition of slavery in New York state. Focusing on public opinion, David N. Gellman shows New Yorkers engaged in vigorous debates and determined activism during the final decades of the eighteenth century as they grappled with the possibility of freeing the state's black population. The gradual emancipation that began in New York in 1799 helped move an entire region of the country toward a historically rare slaveless democracy, creating a wedge in the United States that would ultimately lead to the Civil War. Gellman's comprehensive examination of the reasons for and timing of New York's dismantling of slavery provides a fascinating narrative of a citizenry addressing longstanding injustices central to some of the greatest traumas of American history.
During the revolutionary age and in the early republic, when racial ideologies were evolving and slavery expanding, some northern blacks surprisingly came to identify very strongly with the American cause and to take pride in calling themselves American. In this intriguing study, Rita Roberts explores this phenomenon and offers an in-depth examination of the intellectual underpinnings of antebellum black activists. She shows how conversion to Christianity led a significant and influential population of northern blacks to view the developing American republic and their place in the new nation through the lens of evangelicalism. American identity, therefore, even the formation of an African ethnic community and later an African American identity, developed within the evangelical and republican ideals of the revolutionary age. Evangelical values, Roberts contends, exerted a strong influence on the strategies of northern black reformist activities, specifically abolition, anti-racism, and black community development. The activists and reformers’ commitment to the United States and firm determination to make the country live up to its national principles hinged on their continued faith in the possibility of the collective transformation of all Americans. The people of the United States—both black and white—they believed, would become a new citizenry, distinct from any population in the world because of their commitment to the tenets of the Christian republican faith. Roberts explores the process by which a collective identity formed among northern free blacks and notes the ways in which ministers and other leaders established their African identity through an emphasis on shared oppression. She shows why, in spite of slavery’s expansion in the 1820s and 1830s, northern blacks demonstrated more, not less, commitment to the nation. Roberts then examines the Christian influence on racial theories of some of the major abolitionist figures of the antebellum era, including Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, and especially James McCune Smith, and reveals how activists’ sense of their American identity waned with the intensity of American racism and the passage of laws that further protected slavery in the 1850s. But the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, she explains, renewed hope that America would soon become a free and equal nation. Impeccably researched, Evangelicalism and the Politics of Reform in Northern Black Thought, 1776–1863 offers an innovative look at slavery, abolition, and African American history.
Essays on Comparative Emancipation
Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie's Freedom's Seekers offers a bold and innovative intervention into the study of emancipation as a transnational phe-nomenon and serves as an important contribution to our understanding of the remaking of the nineteenth-century Atlantic Americas.
Drawing on decades of research into slave and emancipation societies, Kerr-Ritchie is attentive to those who sought but were not granted freedom, and those who resisted enslavement individually as well as collectively on behalf of their communities. He explores the many roles that fugitive slaves, slave soldiers, and slave rebels played in their own societies. He likewise explicates the lives of individual freedmen, freedwomen, and freed children to show how the first free-born generation helped to shape the terms and conditions of the post-slavery world.
Freedom's Seekers is a signal contribution to African Diaspora studies, especially in its rigorous respect for the agency of those who sought and then fought for their freedom, and its consistent attention to the transnational dimensions of emancipation.
The Life of Educator, Editor, and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia
In the 1980s, Willis McGlascoe Carter’s handwritten memoir turned up unexpectedly in the hands of a midwestern antiques dealer. Its twenty-two pages told a fascinating story of a man born into slavery in Virginia who, at the onset of freedom, gained an education, became a teacher, started a family, and edited a newspaper. Even his life as a slave seemed exceptional: he described how his owners treated him and his family with respect, and he learned to read and write. Tucked into its back pages, the memoir included a handwritten tribute to Carter, written by his fellow teachers upon his death. Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding’s From Slave to Statesman tells the extraordinary story of Willis M. Carter’s life. Using Carter’s brief memoir--one of the few extant narratives penned by a former slave--as a starting point, Heinrich and Harding fill in the abundant gaps in his life, providing unique insight into many of the most important events and transformations in this period of southern history.
Carter was born a slave in 1852. Upon gaining freedom after the Civil War, Carter, like many former slaves, traveled in search of employment and education. He journeyed as far as Rhode Island and then moved to Washington, DC, where he attended night school before entering and graduating from Wayland Seminary. He continued on to Staunton, Virginia, where he became a teacher and principal in the city’s African American schools, the editor of the Staunton Tribune, a leader in community and state civil rights organizations, and an activist in the Republican Party. Carter served as an alternate delegate to the 1896 Republican National Convention, and later he helped lead the battle against Virginia’s new state constitution, which white supremacists sought to use as a means to disenfranchise blacks. As part of that campaign, Carter traveled to Richmond to address delegates at the constitutional convention, serving as chairman of a committee that advocated voting rights and equal public education for African Americans. Although Carter did not live to see Virginia adopt its new Jim Crow constitution, he died knowing that he had done all in his power to stop it. From Slave to Statesman fittingly resurrects Carter’s all-but-forgotten story, adding immeasurably to our understanding of the journey that he and men like him took out of slavery into a world of incredible promise and powerful disappointment.
Shipboard Insurrections in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade
If We Must Die examines nearly five hundred shipboard rebellions that occurred over the course of the entire slave trade, directly challenging the prevailing thesis that such resistance was infrequent or insignificant. As Eric Robert Taylor shows, though most revolts were crushed quickly, others raged on for hours, days, or weeks, and, occasionally, the Africans captured the vessel and returned themselves to freedom. In recounting these rebellions, Taylor suggests that certain factors like geographic location, the involvement of women and children, and the timing of a shipboard revolt, determined the difference between success and failure. Taylor also explores issues like aid from other ships, punishment of slave rebels, and treatment of sailors captured by the Africans. If We Must Die expands the historical view of slave resistance, revealing a continuum of rebellions that spanned the Atlantic as well as the centuries. These uprisings, Taylor argues, ultimately helped limit and end the traffic in enslaved Africans and also served as crucial predecessors to the many revolts that occurred subsequently on plantations throughout the Americas.