The Slave's Cause
A History of Abolition
Yale University Press 2016
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 6, 2017 Isabell Moore
Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. Her book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016) centers the role of African Americans in ending slavery in the US by detailing the actions they took, the ideas they generated, and the ways they influenced white abolitionists. Acts of Black rebellion including the Haitian Revolution, escapes from bondage and slave revolts shaped the analysis and trajectory of the movement. Drawing on extensive archival research that spans centuries and nations, Sinha paints a complex picture of the transnational and radical movement to end slavery in the US from the 1500s to the Civil War. Previous historical scholarship on abolitionism focused on white participants in the “second wave” of abolitionism, depicting them as paternalistic middle-class reformers who believed in capitalism and imperialism. In contrast, Sinha treats the black and white streams of the abolition movement together, details the “first wave” of organized abolitionist activity as well as the second, and outlines the radical visions of democracy held by many abolitionists. These advocates linked their opposition to slavery to support of the labor movement, utopian socialism and women’s rights and questioned imperialism and market society. The robust movement to end slavery involved men and women, black and white, free, enslaved and formerly enslaved. Despite sometimes bitter disagreements over goals, strategy and tactics, abolitionists found ways to work together.
The Slave’s Cause has been reviewed in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and numerous scholarly journals. It was also named to the National Book Awards Longlist for 2016, and as one of Stephen L. Carter’s’ top three “Great History Books of 2016.”
Isabell Moore is a PhD Student in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on social movements in the 20th century and she is involved in activism for racial, gender, economic and queer justice.