Defining Documents in American History: Slavery delves into the extremely long and violent history of the titular subject. These two volumes discuss slavery in multiple contexts, from ancient times to the slave trade during colonial America, and from the abolitionist movement to issues of slavery in the modern era.
Slavery was not universally endorsed, but it became a part of the economic fabric of the nation. Riots and rebellions alarmed owners and strengthened the resolve of those who worked toward the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of the men, women, and children deemed “property” and valued as only three-fifths of a human. It took a civil war to achieve the goal of freedom for all, and decades of work that continues to this day, to gain and defend the civil rights and liberties afforded to all citizens.
Defining Documents in American History: Slavery offer in-depth analysis of fifty-eight documents, including letters, memoirs, newspaper accounts, book excerpts, speeches, sermons, political debates, testimony, field orders, firsthand accounts, diaries, court rulings, legal texts, and legislative acts. The material is organized into five groups:
Early Debates and Considerations explores John Woolman's Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, as well as An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery passed in Pennsylvania in 1780, and the Slavery Clauses of the U.S. Constitution meant to preserve a delicate balance between slave-holding and free states.
Antebellum Activities covers the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Justice Joseph Story's decision in United States v. Amistad calling for equal rights for all men under the law, and its opposite ruling in the Dred Scott decision.
Slave Stories draws on authors who tell the stories of their lives as slaves, including Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, and Solomon Northup.
Worlds of Woe and War begins with Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address of 1861, in which he tries to maintain the status quo for Southern state and preserve the union, and ending with his Second Inaugural Address of 1865 and its call to "bind up the nation's wounds" as the Civil War is drawing to an end.
Facing the Future evaluates efforts to incorporate freedmen into society including the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, a Field Order promising freemen "forty acres and mule," and efforts to reunite families pulled apart by slavery.
The two-volume set includes in-depth chapters that provide a thorough commentary of significant primary source documents, including:
- David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
- Nellie Norton, or Southern Slavery and the Bible
- The Missouri Compromise
- The Boston Riot, by Charles Sumner
- Lucy Stanton, “A Plea for the Oppressed”
- The Emancipation Proclamation
Each commentary includes these helpful subheads that guide the reader; Summary, Overview, Defining Moment, Author Biography, Detailed Document Analysis and discussion of Essential Themes.
About the Series
Defining Documents consists of a collection of essays on important historical documents by a diverse range of writers on a broad range of subjects in world history. The series offers a broad range of historical documents on important authors and subjects in world history, with primary source documents, in-depth analysis, and comprehensive lesson plans that represent the diversity of ideas and contexts that define social, political, and cultural subjects throughout world history. The Defining Documents series is perfect for students, those researching a particular era, or anyone interested in world history.