Faculty Book: James Oakes

James Oakes

Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865
(W. W. Norton, 2012)

This groundbreaking history of emancipation joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It upends the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually a war to end slavery. Oakes shows that Lincoln’s landmark 1863 proclamation marked neither the beginning nor the end of emancipation: it triggered a more aggressive phase of military emancipation, sending Union soldiers onto plantations to entice slaves away and enlist the men in the army. But slavery proved deeply entrenched, with slaveholders determined to re-enslave freedmen, and Lincoln feared that the war could end in Union victory with slavery still intact. The Thirteenth Amendment was thus the final act in a saga of war, social upheaval, and determined political leadership. James Oakes is a distinguished professor of history at the GC.

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Submitted on: DEC 28, 2012

Category: Faculty Books, History