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 Emancipation” Donald 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.
“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.