Slave Rebels and Resistance in the Early Modern Revolutionary Caribbean

The history of slave rebels and resistance in the Caribbean is a rich and complicated story. Marissa: On August 30, 1789, hundreds of enslaved people gathered along the waterfront in St. Pierre, Martinique. They had just received news that the King of France had abolished slavery but their masters denied that any declaration took place.[…]

What a Line Deleted from the Declaration of Independence Teaches Us about Thomas Jefferson

The excised passage was not then without effect and ought not now to be without effect. In his first draft of Declaration of Independence, Jefferson listed a “long train of abuses & usurpations,” at the hand of King George III. Those, he added, are “begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object.” Those[…]

New Year’s Eve, 1864: Prayers, Glittering Parties, and the Sudden Taste of Freedom

The Emancipation Proclamation Inspired New Year’s celebrations that endure to this day. For young Ed McCree, enslaved on a thousand-acre Georgia cotton plantation, Christmas and New Year’s Day 150 years ago were like no other he had ever known. This child and the other men and women in bondage had always cherished Christmas. There was[…]

Karl Follen: An Abolitionist and the Christmas Tree in 1835

Sadly, Follen’s Christmas tree has gone largely forgotten. Karl Follen came to America from Germany in 1825 as political refugee. As a young law professor he had written that people are justified in rising up against despotic regimes. Lafayette, returning for the fiftieth anniversary of the American Revolution, assisted with introductions.  Soon Follen was again[…]

Sugar, Tobacco, and Slavery in the 18th and 19th Centuries

The most lucrative cash crops to emerge from the Americas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were sugar, tobacco, and rice. Introduction The conditions required for cultivating different cash crops largely shaped regional labor experiences and population demographics for enslaved Africans in the New World. European settlers experimented with a range of crops and export[…]

Congress and the Remaking of the South, 1865-1866

Andrew Johnson lacked Lincoln’s political skills and instead exhibited a stubbornness and confrontational approach. Introduction President Johnson and Congress’s views on Reconstruction grew even further apart as Johnson’s presidency progressed. Congress repeatedly pushed for greater rights for freed people and a far more thorough reconstruction of the South, while Johnson pushed for leniency and a[…]

The Native Americans Who Assisted the Underground Railroad

Native American assistance to freedom seekers crossing through the Midwest has largely been erased from Underground Railroad studies. In an interview conducted in 2002, the late Helen Hornbeck Tanner, an influential historian of the Native American experience in the Midwest best known for her magisterial Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (1987), reflected on the considerable record[…]

The Kikotan Massacre and the Arrival of the First African Slaves in 1619

Two factors overlapped to result in the genocide of the Kikotan people. Reckoning with the past is never easy. We’ve seen this in the United States and the United Kingdom this summer, as British universities grapple with their connections to the wealth and human suffering resulting from transatlantic enslavement, and Americans debate the historical meaning of the 400th anniversary of[…]

St. Augustine’s Slave Market: A Visual History

Placing special emphasis on visual culture in the forms of photographs and postcards, Goldstein unpacks the complicated history of St. Augustine’s Slave Market. Introduction At the center of the historic quarter in St. Augustine, Florida, stands the “old slave market,” an open-air pavilion where enslaved Africans were bought and sold (Figures 1–3). Since its construction[…]

Listening to the Past: An African-American Lullaby

Both during slavery and after, the power structures of American society confined many black women to the role of caretakers of white families. My research tries to capture the sounds of the past before the advent of recorded music. I’m curious about ideas that were spoken and sung and shouted and strummed, focusing particularly on[…]

Abolition and Emancipation Were Not the Same Thing

After the Civil War, Rose Herera wanted more than freedom – she wanted justice. Early in 1865, in the city of New Orleans, a newly freed woman named Rose Herera made a startling allegation. She told a local judge that her former owner’s wife, Mary De Hart, had abducted three of her children and was[…]

Abolition and European Imperialism in East Africa, 1845-1893

What were the links between abolition and imperialism in East Africa? Introduction The islands of Zanzibar and Pemba off the East coast of Africa have long been part of a cosmopolitan Indian Ocean trading world. On these tropical islands, as well as the nearby coast, the ancient African civilization of the Swahili grew wealthy on[…]

Slavery and the Origins of the Lost Cause Myth

States’ rights and slavery, while theoretically distinct, were in praxis intertwined. Here’s what a Jeffersonian analysis of Jubal Early’s lost-cause apologia can teach us. The two most significant issues that led to war between the North and South were, most scholars acknowledge, slavery and states’ rights. Northern states had fully abolished slavery by 1804, when[…]

Slavery, Civil War, and the “New Birth of Freedom”

To twenty-first-century Americans, the case against slavery may appear self-evident. However, nineteenth-century opponents of slavery faced a quite different social consensus on the issue. Introduction To twenty-first-century Americans, the case against slavery may appear self-evident. Most of us have no doubt about the profound injustice of a system in which some people are the property[…]

African Art and the Effects of European Contact and Colonization

African cultures never existed in isolation—there was always movement, trade, and the exchange of ideas. Introduction Early encounters with Europeans were often recorded in African art. Look closely at the top of the mask above (and detail, left). Do you see faces? These represent Portuguese explorers with beards and hats (flanked by mudfish) who visited[…]

The Remarkable History of the Union League Club

There were moments in our history where both African-American freedom and Mexico’s independence were addressed in a positive way. By Dr. Michael HoganHistorian and Author Today, as we observe the dismay of Princeton students at their university’s legacy of slavery, and the Trump administration’s increasingly hostile attitude toward Mexico, it is important to recognize that[…]

Did the End of the Civil War Mean the End of Slavery?

April 1865 marked the beginning of a new battle for American abolitionists. On the same morning that Abraham Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet, noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was quietly gloating by the Charleston, South Carolina graveside of John C. Calhoun. Garrison, approaching his 60th birthday, had traveled down to secession’s birthplace with a[…]

Olaudah Equiano and the Eighteenth-Century Debate over Africa and the Slave Trade

Arguments made by eighteenth-century writers about the slave trade and contributions to those debates by freed slave Olaudah Equiano. Introduction Olaudah Equiano was a British citizen and former slave who, in the 1780s, became a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or[…]

Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko”: Slavery and Race in the Atlantic World

Exploring how novel Oroonoko compares to other representations of race, slavery, and colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Introduction Aphra Behn published Oroonoko in 1688, a time when the Atlantic slave trade and African slavery in the Americas were becoming consolidated as a transnational, economic system. The novel draws on popular forms of literature such as[…]

Other Americans and the American Revolution

Who identified as “American” during the Revolution? To what extent did the American Revolution serve the interests of all inhabitants of the emerging nation? By Carolyn LatshawNational Society of Daughters of the American Revolution–Chicago Chapter Introduction When we think of the Americans during the Revolutionary War, we think George Washington, John Adams, Paul Revere—the Patriots.[…]

Moldy Church Records in Latin America Document the Lives of Millions of Slaves

Now, intrepid scholars are saving those parish baptismal records from war, neglect, and rot. By Paula Wasley On Sunday, March 2, 1721, in the San Carlos Cathedral of the Cuban city of Matanzas, Father Francisco Gonsales del Alamo laid hands on a black slave named Francisco, to mark his entry into the Catholic Church. Though[…]

On Looking: Slaves on Display in New Haven Green

Amistad captives were kept in a jail on the New Haven Green. For twelve-and-a-half cents, residents of the city could come look at them. But you are here for the story… So it is a lost story but we will be imagining it, anyway.  —Rita Dove, “Prologue of the Rambling Sort” Many things are true at once. —Elizabeth[…]

How the Forced Removal of the Southeast’s Indians Turned Native Lands into Slave Plantations

“Alabama Fever” triggered a takeover by cotton planters of America’s oldest indigenous region. The Old South wasn’t really that old. Plantations appeared in many areas of the Deep South only a few decades before the Civil War. Before that, the South was Indian country. The South’s long and rich Indigenous history is unknown to many[…]

Creating a Digital Museum to Memorialize America’s Slave Past

Art historian Renée Ater reflects on how pain and reconciliation coexist at the Contraband and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial in Virginia and other monuments to slavery. By Chelika Yapa Scholar James Young once posed this provocative question: How does a nation memorialize a past it might rather forget? Art historian Renée Ater is exploring this question[…]

Muslims and the First Recorded Slave Revolt in the New World, 1522

Charles V blamed the revolt on their radical ideology rather than the harsh realities of living a life of slavery. On Christmas Day, 1522, 20 enslaved Muslim Africans used machetes to attack their Christian masters on the island of Hispaniola, then governed by the son of Christopher Columbus. The assailants, condemned to the grinding toil[…]