Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation

Citation metadata

Date: Spring 2019
From: Journal of American Ethnic History(Vol. 38, Issue 3)
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 820 words
Lexile Measure: 1600L

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation. Edited by David W. Blight and Jim Downs. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017. 190 pp. Index. $79.95 (cloth); $24.95 (paper).

In some ways Beyond Freedom is an odd title for this collection, since freedom itself--and not the questions that go beyond it, surround it, and so often occlude it--stands at the heart of its focus. Yet a deeper look reveals that historians have found it far easier to describe what freedom did not mean than to give freedom clear analytical weight by separating freedom as an end state from emancipation as a series of developments. As a result, the volume's editors contend, historians have used "freedom" as a simulacrum for complex developments like the expansion of state power, the extension of citizenship rights, or the emergence of freedpeople's politics. By treating "emancipation as a process rather than a shotgun moment of liberation," the volume's contributors hope to prompt historians to move beyond collapsing their evaluations of the Civil War and Reconstruction period into measures of the presence or absence of freedom (p. 4). Instead, they seek to disentangle freedom from the political and human narratives that followed, so that emancipation can stand as a subject of study...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A591323823