Skip to main content
Rethinking American Emancipation

Book description

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, an event that soon became a bold statement of presidential power, a dramatic shift in the rationale for fighting the Civil War, and a promise of future freedom for four million enslaved Americans. But the document marked only a beginning; freedom's future was anything but certain. Thereafter, the significance of both the Proclamation and of emancipation assumed new and diverse meanings, as African Americans explored freedom and the nation attempted to rebuild itself. Despite the sweeping power of Lincoln's Proclamation, struggle, rather than freedom, defined emancipation's broader legacy. The nine essays in this volume unpack the long history and varied meanings of the emancipation of American slaves. Together, the contributions argue that 1863 did not mark an end point or a mission accomplished in black freedom; rather, it initiated the beginning of an ongoing, contested process.


‘Rethinking American Emancipation introduces new scholarly perspectives on the black freedom struggle and expands our understanding of emancipation in the context and aftermath of the American Civil War. Highlighting the ways in which emancipation was claimed, contested, and remembered, this terrific collection is a must-read for anyone interested in slavery and freedom. Its provocative and original arguments establish new standards in the field that will inform scholarly debates for years to come.’

Crystal N. Feimster - Yale University, Connecticut

‘This wide-ranging collection of essays showcases some of the best recent work on emancipation in the American South, and reveals the vitality and diversity of the rapidly evolving scholarship.’

Peter Kolchin - Henry Clay Reed Professor of History, University of Delaware

'This is a remarkable collection of essays that includes the writing of some of the most innovative scholars of emancipation and reconstruction working today. These historians’ interpretively forceful essays work brilliantly in conversation with one another. They yield a volume that illustrates in bold relief the ways in which emancipation was so much more than ‘a moment’ or a concept, but rather a lengthy, irregular, and multivalent process. This volume is an invaluable encapsulation of current scholarship on emancipation and reconstruction.'

Anne Marshall - Mississippi State University

'Eschewing the iconography of emancipation, the nine essays in this volume from a 2013 conference offer ‘new ways’ of understanding slavery’s demise in the US: e.g., Lincoln’s 1863 edict did not end slavery, but began freedom’s long journey; emancipation impacted all Southerners, not just former slaves; the emancipation state continued its territorial expansion and conquest into the US West; emancipation remained contested terrain by radicals and liberals in the US and diasporic Africans in the Americas. The volume sits within an evolving historiography of ‘factors, contingencies, and individual efforts’ shaping emancipation. Summing up: recommended. All academic levels/libraries.'

J. R. Kerr-Ritchie Source: Choice

Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed