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Rethinking American Emancipation
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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

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