Trying the Dark: Mammoth Cave and the Racial Imagination, 1839–1869

Examining the diverse body of cultural artifacts against the backdrop of Mammoth Cave as a site of American slavery. Overview In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave was a popular tourist destination for travelers from around the United States and beyond. The cave also functioned during these years as a dynamic[…]

Inside the Jackson Tract: The Battle Over Peonage Labor Camps in Southern Alabama, 1906

Exploring the history of post-slavery labor, the harsh conditions of labor camps, and efforts to end the peonage system. Introduction On a warm spring day in 1904, former governor of Maryland and lumberman E. E. Jackson, along with several associates, traveled to Alabama to view their extensive holdings of southern yellow pine forests. The party took[…]

To Free or Not to Free: Thomas Jefferson’s Lukewarm Stance on Slavery

Jefferson’s reasoning centered on generational sovereignty and timeliness. It is often acknowledged that Jefferson did much in his years prior to his retirement from political activity to try to eradicate the institution of slavery. Writes Gilbert Chinard in Thomas Jefferson: The Apostle of Americanism: No New Englander had done more to promote the cause of[…]

An Accurate Historical Understanding of the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad activists and fugitive slaves had to improvise in response to ever-shifting circumstances. When I’ve used that line over the years in speaking to audiences about the loosely-organized network that aided runaway slaves in the pre-Civil War U.S., it has usually elicited surprise.  Since slavery ended, most Americans have come to view the Underground Railroad[…]

Seeds of Rebellion in Plantation Fiction: Victor Séjour’s ‘The Mulatto’

Through its representation of physical and psychological effects, Séjour’s story inaugurated the literary delineation of slavery’s submission-rebellion binary. By Dr. Ed PiacentinoProfessor Emeritus of EnglishHigh Point University Overview This essay examines Victor Séjour’s “The Mulatto” (1837), a short story acknowledged as the first fictional work by an African American. Through its representation of physical and[…]

The Emergence of the Border South in the 19th Century

The rise of the Border South in the nineteenth century as a section was accompanied by conflict over slavery. It was a geopolitical region whose complexities of identity, commerce, and family make it both deeply Southern and at points open to other regions, cultures, and influences. Defining the Border Anyone who has lived for a[…]

A Bill of Lading Delivers the Goods: The Constitutionality and Effect of the Emancipation Proclamation

A bill of lading is a document issued by a carrier to a shipper acknowledging receipt of goods for transit. This greatest of all bills of lading was constitutionally issued by the Union’s helmsman. And it delivered the goods. By James A. Dueholm, J.D. Introduction On January 31, 1865, Congress adopted the Thirteenth Amendment, which[…]

Deadly Notes: Atlantic Soundscapes and the Writing of the Middle Passage

The ships traveling the pathways of the Middle Passage—and beyond—were anything but silent spaces. “A Kind of Chorus” [S]ince speech was forbidden, slaves camouflaged the word under the provocative intensity of the scream. No one could translate the meaning of what seemed to be nothing but a shout. It was taken to be nothing but[…]

Voices in the Campaign for Abolition

From the mid-18th century, Africans and people of African descent – many of them former slaves – began to write down their stories. This article describes these writings and assesses their role in the abolition of slavery. Introduction Slavery in the Atlantic world was more complex than history books can readily convey. Most enslaved people[…]

Maria Stewart: The First Black Feminist-Abolitionist in America

Nearly two centuries before Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to the U.S Congress in November, Maria Stewart took the stage of Franklin Hall in Boston in 1833. By Jeff Biggers / 12.09.2018Historian and Journalist Nearly two centuries before Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to the U.S Congress in[…]