Department of History
Patrick Rael will share ideas from his
forthcoming book — Eighty-Eight Years: The
Long Death of Slavery in the United States,
1777-1865 — which places the process of
ending chattel bondage in the U.S. against
patterns of emancipation throughout the Atlantic.
Prof. Rael begins with a crucial insight:
everywhere slavery ended, it died
hard, as slaveholders and their political representatives
fought tooth and nail to protect
a profitable labor system. But only in the
United States did slavery end as a consequence
of a war that began over slavery itself.
The largest emancipation in Atlantic history
was thus also the bloodiest, costing up
to a million lives, and transforming three million
pieces of human property into fullfledged
And yet, for the Union, the war did
not begin as a crusade to destroy slavery.
This objective emerged only gradually
on the Union agenda, and it came at considerable
cost. Prof. Rael's talk will explore how
the war transformed — from a conflict to retain
the unity of the union, to one intended
to end slavery. He will examine the grand
strategy of the war, with an eye toward the
factors that led abolition to become a considerable,
and indeed crucial, path to victory.
This process involved not just policymaking
at the highest levels of government, but
practical, in-the-field problems created by
the enslaved themselves, as they sought to
wrest freedom from the chaos of war.
In the process, Prof. Rael will set the American Civil War against other instances
of mass emancipation in the Atlantic, and
suggest some of the reasons why the United
States' path to universal freedom
proved to be so troubled.
Patrick Rael is a specialist in African-
American history, and is the author of
numerous essays and books, including
Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum
North (North Carolina, 2002), which
earned Honorable Mention for the Frederick
Douglass Prize from the Gilder Lerhman
Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance,
and Abolition. He is also the editor of African-
American Activism before the Civil War:
The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum
North (Routledge, 2008), and co-editor of
Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early
African-American Protest Literature
(Routledge, 2001). He is currently working
on a book project, entitled Eighty-Eight
Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the
United States, 1777-1865 (Georgia, forthcoming).
Weather Cancellation Notification: If driving conditions are dangerous, the meeting will be cancelled. Watch Channels 6, 8, and 13 for a meeting cancellation, or call Al Prest at 443-2296.