International Emancipation – 1862

We sometimes forget that emancipation in the United States took place in a context of emancipation throughout the Western Hemisphere. One of the best recent books that invokes this context is Stephanie McCurry‘s _Confederate Reckoning_, which I highly recommend. In a new post by Donald Shaffer on his excellent blog “Civil War EmancipationDonald Shaffer talks about the international context of emancipation during the 19th century, “International Emancipation – Spring 1862.”

Shaffer quotes from a March 1862 article in the New York Times,             on abolition in the Dutch Islands.

Shaffer writes:

“It is often easy given the gripping nature of emancipation in the American Civil War to forget that it was part of a larger story across the Americas. In addition to North America, African slavery had established deep roots in Brazil, the Caribbean, and other places in the continent. Even as the conflict in the United States was destroying the peculiar institution, various events were occurring to dismantle other pockets of remaining slavery in the Americas, and to suppress once-and-for-all the Atlantic slave trade.

In March 1862, the Dutch decided to emancipate the remaining slaves in their Caribbean colonies, joining the British, who had freed their slaves there in 1830s, and France which ended slavery there for good in the 1840s (except for Haiti where it ended earlier in violent revolution).”

I think we have to recover the international context of emancipation to truly understand what was happening in the United States from 1800 through 1865. An example is William Knibb, a Baptist Minister, abolitionist, and missionary to Jamaica.

Is anyone else out there familiar with McCurry’s book? I would be very interested in your take on her views about the international context of emancipation, the military context and her comparisons to how it also played out in other parts of the Americas, and the slaveholders unwillingness to compromise over slavery, even when it became clear that they  would lose the war and needed the manpower represented by their human “property,” which they were unwilling to sacrifice.


About marcferguson

I teach history, including the American Civil War Era, as an Adjunct at American International College in Springfield, Ma. I also teach survey courses in U.S. history, Western Civilization, and World History, and have taught at other area colleges, including the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and Holyoke Community College. While my academic background is in European History, my interest in the American Civil War began about a decade ago. Other areas of interest include Modernism, 20th century World Thought and Culture, The Rise of the West after 1400, 19th c. American Society and Culture, Central and Eastern European History and Culture, and Local History. I have in recent years cut back my teaching drastically in order to devote more time raising my kids (15 year old twins now), including working part-time at their elementary/middle school for the past 6 years, they are now launched and off to High School, and I plan to crank up my involvement in teaching history and local history projects, particularly in light of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial.
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