Slave Self-Activity and the Bourgeois Revolution in the United States: Jubilee and the Boundaries of Black Freedom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

For more than a generation, historical interpretations of emancipation in the United States have acknowledged that the slaves played a central role in driving that process forward. This is a critically important advance, and one worth defending. But it is also a perspective whose influence seems increasingly precarious. This article explores the complex relationship between the slaves’ ‘revolution from below’ and the bourgeois revolution directed from above, in part through an appraisal of W.E.B. Du Bois’s argument about the ‘slaves’ general strike’ and the wider revolutionary upheaval encompassing civil war and reconstruction. Grounded in a close familiarity with sources and interpretive trends, the article offers a detailed reading of shifting perspectives in current historiography, a comprehensive review of left engagement with Du Bois’s work, and an extended ‘critical and sympathetic’ appraisal of his major work from within the framework of the Marxist tradition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Materialism
Early online date24 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 24 Oct 2019

Fingerprint

slave
general strike
emancipation
historiography
civil war
reconstruction
interpretation
trend
Slaves
Jubilees
Revolution

Keywords

  • Slave Emancipation
  • US Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • labour history
  • Lincoln
  • Confederacy
  • political economy
  • Marxism

Cite this

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abstract = "For more than a generation, historical interpretations of emancipation in the United States have acknowledged that the slaves played a central role in driving that process forward. This is a critically important advance, and one worth defending. But it is also a perspective whose influence seems increasingly precarious. This article explores the complex relationship between the slaves’ ‘revolution from below’ and the bourgeois revolution directed from above, in part through an appraisal of W.E.B. Du Bois’s argument about the ‘slaves’ general strike’ and the wider revolutionary upheaval encompassing civil war and reconstruction. Grounded in a close familiarity with sources and interpretive trends, the article offers a detailed reading of shifting perspectives in current historiography, a comprehensive review of left engagement with Du Bois’s work, and an extended ‘critical and sympathetic’ appraisal of his major work from within the framework of the Marxist tradition.",
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