Abolitionists and the American Civil War

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Abolitionist Homepage

Abolitionists and the American Civil War History

Abolitionist: a person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.
 
 
Related Reading:
 

Recommended Reading: Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. Description: Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading authority on slavery in the Western World. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime of insight in this definitive account of New World slavery. The heart of the book looks at slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, rise of the Cotton Kingdom, daily life of ordinary slaves, highly destructive slave trade, sexual exploitation of slaves, emergence of an African-American culture, abolition, abolitionists, antislavery movements, and much more. Continued below…

But though centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations and also traces the long evolution of anti-black racism in European thought. Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do, and it connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics, stressing that slavery was integral to America's success as a nation--not a marginal enterprise. This is the definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject. Inhuman Bondage offers a compelling portrait of the dark side of the American dream.

 
Recommended Reading: From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (2 vols. in 1) (768 pages). Description: This is the dramatic, exciting, authoritative story of the experiences of African Americans from the time they left Africa to their continued struggle for equality at the end of the twentieth century. Since its original publication in 1947, From Slavery to Freedom has stood as the definitive history of African Americans. Coauthors John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., give us a vividly detailed account of the journey of African Americans from their origins in the civilizations of Africa, through their years of slavery in the New World, to the successful struggle for freedom and its aftermath in the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States. Continued below...
Written by distinguished and award-winning authors, retaining the same features that have made it the most popular text on African American History ever, and with fresh and appealing new features, From Slavery to Freedom remains the leading text on the market. This eighth edition has been revised to include expanded coverage of Africa; additional material in every chapter on the history and current situation of African Americans in the United States; new charts, maps, and black-and-white illustrations; and a third four-page color insert. The authors incorporate recent scholarship to examine slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the period between World War I and World War II (including the Harlem Renaissance). From Slavery to Freedom describes the rise of slavery, the interaction of European and African cultures in the New World, and the emergence of a distinct culture and way of life among slaves and free blacks. The authors examine the role of blacks in the nation's wars, the rise of an articulate, restless free black community by the end of the eighteenth century, and the growing resistance to slavery among an expanding segment of the black population. The book deals in considerable detail with the period after slavery, including the arduous struggle for first-class citizenship that has extended into the twentieth century. Many developments in recent African American history are examined, including demographic change; educational efforts; literary and cultural changes; problems in housing, health, juvenile matters, and poverty; the expansion of the black middle class; and the persistence of discrimination in the administration of justice. All who are interested in African Americans' continuing quest for equality will find a wealth of information based on the recent findings of many scholars. Professors Franklin and Moss have captured the tragedies and triumphs, the hurts and joys, the failures and successes, of blacks in a lively and readable volume that remains the most authoritative and comprehensive book of its kind. From the Inside Flap: This is the dramatic, exciting, authoritative story of the experiences of African Americans from the time they left Africa to their continued struggle for equality at the end of the twentieth century. Since its original publication in 1947, From Slavery to Freedom has stood as the definitive history of African Americans. Coauthors John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., give us a vividly detailed account of the journey of African Americans from their origins in the civilizations of Africa, through their years of slavery in the New World, to the successful struggle for freedom and its aftermath in the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States. This eighth edition has been revised to include expanded coverage of Africa; additional material in every chapter on the history and current situation of African Americans in the United States; new charts, maps, and black-and-white illustrations; and a third four-page color insert. The authors incorporate recent scholarship to examine slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the period between World War I and World War II (including the Harlem Renaissance). From Slavery to Freedom describes the rise of slavery, the interaction of European and African cultures in the New World, and the emergence of a distinct culture and way of life among slaves and free blacks. The authors examine the role of blacks in the nation's wars, the rise of an articulate, restless free black community by the end of the eighteenth century, and the growing resistance to slavery among an expanding segment of the black population. The book deals in considerable detail with the period after slavery, including the arduous struggle for first-class citizenship that has extended into the twentieth century. Many developments in recent African American history are examined, including demographic change; educational efforts; literary and cultural changes; problems in housing, health, juvenile matters, and poverty; the expansion of the black middle class; and the persistence of discrimination in the administration of justice. All who are interested in African Americans' continuing quest for equality will find a wealth of information based on the recent findings of many scholars. Professors Franklin and Moss have captured the tragedies and triumphs, the hurts and joys, the failures and successes, of blacks in a lively and readable volume that remains the most authoritative and comprehensive book of its kind. Review: This definitive edition has been thoroughly revised to include expanded material on Africa, the history of African Americans in the Caribbean and Latin America, the current situation of African Americans in the United States, popular culture, and much more. It has also been redesigned with new charts, maps, photographs, paintings, illustrations, and color inserts. It is a welcome addition to African American studies, and public and school libraries.
 

Recommended Reading: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. Description: Amazing Grace tells the story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833). This accessible biography chronicles Wilberforce's extraordinary role as a human rights activist, cultural reformer, and member of Parliament. At the center of this heroic life was a passionate twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, a battle Wilberforce won in 1807, as well as efforts to abolish slavery itself in the British colonies, a victory achieved just three days before his death in 1833. Continued below...

Metaxas discovers in this unsung hero a man of whom it can truly be said: he changed the world. Before Wilberforce, few thought slavery was wrong. After Wilberforce, most societies in the world came to see it as a great moral wrong. To mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade, HarperSanFrancisco and Bristol Bay Productions have joined together to commemorate the life of William Wilberforce with the feature-length film Amazing Grace and this companion biography, which provides a fuller account of the amazing life of this great man than can be captured on film. This account of Wilberforce's life will help many become acquainted with an exceptional man who was a hero to Abraham Lincoln and an inspiration to the anti-slavery movement in America. From the Back Cover: Amazing Grace is the biography of William Wilberforce, a British statesman and reformer from the early part of the 19th century. It chronicles his extraordinary contributions to the world, primarily his 20-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, which he won in 1807. He was also instrumental in passing legislation to abolish slavery in the British colonies, a victory he won just three days before his death in 1833. He was a hero to Abraham Lincoln and an inspiration to the anti-slavery movement in America. America needs to become reacquainted with this moral hero. This biography of one of the foremost abolitionists of Britain’s anti-slavery movement is the official tie-in book to the film Amazing Grace by Walden Media. The hardcover edition spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) (February 5, 2008) (Hardcover). Description: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation. Continued below...

Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued. Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history. The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for Americans today.

 

Recommended Reading: Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress. Description: In the 1830s, slavery was so deeply entrenched that it could not even be discussed in Congress, which had enacted a "gag rule" to ensure that anti-slavery petitions would be summarily rejected. This stirring book chronicles the parliamentary battle to bring "the peculiar institution" into the national debate, a battle that some historians have called "the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy." Continued below...

The campaign to make slavery officially and respectably debatable was waged by John Quincy Adams who spent nine years defying gags, accusations of treason, and assassination threats. In the end he made his case through a combination of cunning and sheer endurance. Telling this story with a brilliant command of detail, Arguing About Slavery endows history with majestic sweep, heroism, and moral weight.
 

Recommended Reading: Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War. Description: Before the Civil War, slaveholders made themselves into the most powerful, most deeply rooted, and best organized private interest group within the United States. Not only did slavery represent the national economy's second largest capital investment, exceeded only by investment in real estate, but guarantees of its perpetuation were studded throughout the U.S. Constitution. The vast majority of white Americans, in North and South, accepted the institution, and pro-slavery presidents and congressmen consistently promoted its interests. Continued below…

In Abolitionist Politics and the Coming of the Civil War, James Brewer Stewart explains how a small group of radical activists, the abolitionist movement, played a pivotal role in turning American politics against this formidable system. He examines what influence the movement had in creating the political crises that led to civil war and evaluates the extent to which a small number of zealous reformers made a truly significant political difference when demanding that their nation face up to its most excruciating moral problem. In making these assessments, Stewart addresses a series of more specific questions: What were the abolitionists actually up against when seeking the overthrow of slavery and white supremacy? What motivated and sustained them during their long and difficult struggles? What larger historical contexts (religious, social, economic, cultural, and political) influenced their choices and determined their behavior? What roles did extraordinary leaders play in shaping the movement, and what were the contributions of abolitionism's unheralded foot soldiers? What factors ultimately determined, for better or worse, the abolitionists' impact on American politics and the realization of their equalitarian goals?

 
Recommended Reading: Black Abolitionists. Description: While much is known about the white men and women who were involved in the anti-slavery movement, the 'black abolitionists' have been largely ignored. This book, written by one of America’s leading black historians, sets the record straight. As Benjamin Quarles shows, blacks were anything but passive in the abolitionist movement. Continued...
Many of the pioneers of abolition were black; dozens of black preachers and writers actively promoted the cause; black organizations were founded to support their brothers; black ambassadors for freedom crossed the Atlantic; blacks were instrumental in the operation of the Underground Railroad. Quarles puts it eloquently: "To the extent that America had a revolutionary tradition [the black American] was its protagonist no less than its symbol."
 
Recommended Reading: The Black Abolitionist Papers: Vol. IV: The United States, 1847-1858 (Black Abolitionist Papers) (Hardcover; 470 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: This five-volume documentary collection—culled from an international archival search that turned up more than 14,000 letters, speeches, pamphlets, essays, and newspaper editorials—reveals how black abolitionists represented the core of the antislavery movement. While the first two volumes consider black abolitionists in the British Isles and Canada (the home of approximately 60,000 black Americans on the eve of the Civil War), the remaining volumes examine the activities and opinions of black abolitionists in the United States from 1830 until the end of the Civil War. Continued below...
 In particular, these volumes focus on their reactions to African colonization and the idea of gradual emancipation, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the promise brought by emancipation during the war. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, more than any other event in the 1850s, provoked a widespread, emotionally charged reaction among northern blacks. Entire communities responded to the law that threatened free blacks as well as fugitive slaves with arbitrary arrest and enslavement. This volume pays particular attention to black resistance through such community efforts as vigilance committees and the underground railroad.

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