Selected Titles on
Abolition and the American Civil War
In 1960 Harvard University Press published the first modern edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. That edition, only recently superseded, was edited and featured an Introduction by Benjamin Quarles, a prolific and pioneering African American historian.
Quarles and HUP were reintroducing Frederick Douglass to a United States that was in the midst of its greatest racial reordering since Douglass’s own time. It’s instructive to revisit Quarles’s essay now, half a century after it was written, as we comemmorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. We’re pleased to make the full text available online.
“Ira Berlin ranks as one of the greatest living historians of slavery in the United States… The Long Emancipation offers a useful reminder that abolition was not the charitable work of respectable white people, or not mainly that. Instead, the demise of slavery was made possible by the constant discomfort inflicted on middle-class white society by black activists. And like the participants in today’s Black Lives Matter movement, Berlin has not forgotten that the history of slavery in the United States—especially the history of how slavery ended—is never far away when contemporary Americans debate whether their nation needs to change.”—Edward E. Baptist, The New York Times Book Review
“Over the course of his life (1818–1895), Douglass published three autobiographies, continually revising and restructuring his life story as an ex-slave. Yet he is read and celebrated mostly for his first, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845 under the aegis of William Lloyd Garrison’s Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In this finely delineated look at Douglass’ writing, Levine urges new readings of his subject’s other autobiographical works, as well as his 1853 novella, The Heroic Slave, in order to grasp a fuller understanding of how Douglass came into his own and began to move away from Garrison’s ‘moral suasion’ to an advocacy of black militancy and beyond… Levine’s exploration of the character of Madison Washington in The Heroic Slave as Douglass’ alter ego and his views of John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln are especially elucidating. An astute, thorough literary study that will invite fresh readings of Douglass’ writing.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Guelzo delivers original and tautly argued insights into Lincoln’s antislavery thought and the feral persistence of American racism. No one who reads this superb, provocative book will be tempted to dismiss the depth or sincerity of Lincoln’s personal commitment to emancipation.”—Fergus M. Bordewich, author of America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union
No U.S. president has faced the problems Lincoln confronted, nor expressed himself with such eloquence on issues of great moment. Harold Holzer and Thomas Horrocks explore his writings on slavery, emancipation, racial equality, the legality of secession, civil liberties in wartime, and the meaning of the terrible suffering caused by the Civil War.
Before the Civil War, slaves who managed to escape almost always made their way northward along the Underground Railroad. Matthew Clavin recovers the story of fugitive slaves who sought freedom by paradoxically sojourning deeper into the American South toward an unlikely destination: the small seaport of Pensacola, Florida, a gateway to freedom.
“In After Appomattox, Downs makes the case that the final end to slavery, and the establishment of basic civil and voting rights for all Americans, was ‘born in the face of bayonets.’ Put simply, the military occupation created democracy as we know it. Downs’ book couldn’t come at a more opportune time, as American forces once again face the difficult question of how long, and to what ends, an occupying army must stay in conquered territory… The brilliance of Downs’ argument is that he steals the central complaint of the apologists, yet reverses the conclusion: The federal government was overzealous—and that was a good thing. Congress had to impose martial law in order for blacks to gain basic freedoms. If military officers sometimes vacated racist local laws, if they removed ruthless sheriffs and judges, if they tried white supremacists in unfair military tribunals—all of which they did—they did so for necessary ends. Equality would come to the South no other way… Downs has produced a remarkable, necessary book.”—Eric Herschthal, Slate
“Amidst slavery’s unraveling in New Orleans, Rose Herera fought to prevent her owner from taking her children to Havana, ‘beyond freedom’s reach.’ Rothman’s recovery of Herera’s remarkable story, her incarceration and journey through the legal system to rescue her children, marks an important contribution to the history of emancipation and the contingency of wartime freedom.”—Thavolia Glymph, author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household
2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Cleveland Foundation • Finalist, 2015 George Washington Book Prize, C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
“A Tale of Two Plantations is the first book to describe with vivid detail the lived realities of the radically different slave societies of the Caribbean and North America. Based on deep research in plantation records, Dunn’s comparison explains how the lives of slaves in different parts of the Anglo-Atlantic world could be so different. By illuminating the family lives of enslaved people like Sarah Affir and Winney Grimshaw, he has breathed life into the old account books that listed people as nothing but property.”—Edward Rugemer, author of The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War
2013 SHEAR Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic • Honorable Mention, 2014 Avery O. Craven Award, Organization of American Historians • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013
“The artistry of River of Dark Dreams lies in the close-up… In the pointillist style so dexterously displayed in his reconstruction of the New Orleans slave market, Soul by Soul, Johnson zooms in on the ‘nested set of abstractions’ that made the Cotton Kingdom run: money, markets, maps, labor… River of Dark Dreams delivers spectacularly on the long-standing mission to write ‘history from the bottom up’: from the soil tangy and pungent with manure, and the Petit Gulf cotton plants rooted into it, and the calloused fingers plucking its blooming, sharp-edged bolls. This is a history of how wilderness became plantations that became states, nations, and empires.”—Maya Jasanoff, The New York Review of Books
2013 Gilbert Chinard Prize, Society for French Historical Studies and the Institut Français d’Amerique • 2012 Albert J. Beveridge Award, American Historical Association • 2012 James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History, American Historical Association
“[A] well-researched and readable family history… [T]he Tinchants struggled, survived, and flourished—in Senegal, Cuba, New Orleans, Antwerp, and Paris; and through the Haitian Revolution, French Revolution of 1848, the Civil War and Reconstruction in the U.S., and WWII in Europe… [H]istorically enlightening and inspiring.”—Publishers Weekly
2013 Darlene Clark Hine Award, Organization of American Historians • Finalist, 2013 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
“[W]e know little about the day-to-day lives of female runaways, their families and their relationships with Northern whites. Sydney Nathans’s To Free a Family is a minor masterpiece that goes a long way toward filling this gap… Nathans is brilliant at reconstructing Mary Walker’s life and her relationship with Peter and Susan Lesley… The result is a remarkable story of an extended biracial family that embarked on a 15-year effort to reunite Walker with her surviving children.”—John Stauffer, The Wall Street Journal
2012 Anisfeld-Wolf Book Award, Cleveland Foundation • A Wall Street Journal Holiday Gift Pick, 2012
“Historian Blight examines how we handled the centennial [of the Civil War], which occurred at the infancy of the civil rights movement… History and great literature blend beautifully as Blight conducts his examination of the works of four writers—Robert Penn Warren, southern-born novelist; Bruce Catton, historian and journalist; Edmund Wilson, literary critic; and James Baldwin, northern-born essayist and race critic—providing…context for…their views of the centennial and all its commercialism and hypocrisy… Blight explores…the sense of American redemption that did not include any examination of the tragedies of racism and slavery.”—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)
2012 Daniel M. & Marilyn W. Laney Prize, Austin Civil War Round Table • 2012 Tom Watson Brown Book Prize, Society of Civil War Historians • 2011 Eugene Feit Award in Civil War Studies, New York Military Affairs Symposium
“[N]ot so much a history of wartime patriotism as a series of meditations on the meaning of the Union to Northerners, the role of slavery in the conflict, and how historians have interpreted (and in his view misinterpreted) these matters… Gallagher offers a salutary reminder of the power of democratic ideals not simply to Northerners in the era of the Civil War, but also to people in other nations, who celebrated the Union victory as a harbinger of greater rights for themselves. Imaginatively invoking sources neglected by other scholars…Gallagher gives a dramatic portrait of the power of wartime nationalism.”—Eric Foner, The New York Times Book Review
Finalist, 2011 Pulitzer Prize for History • 2011 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History • 2011 Avery O. Craven Award, Organization of American Historians • Co-winner, 2011 Merle Curti Award, Organization of American Historians • 2011 Willie Lee Rose Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians
“The sesquicentennial of the Civil War now looms on the horizon, promising [a] deluge of books… We will be fortunate indeed if in sheer originality and insight they measure up to Confederate Reckoning… McCurry challenges us to expand our definition of politics to encompass not simply government but the entire public sphere. The struggle for Southern independence, she shows, opened the door for the mobilization of two groups previously outside the political nation—white women of the nonslaveholding class and slaves… Confederate Reckoning offers a powerful new paradigm for understanding events on the Confederate home front.”—Eric Foner, The Nation