Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation

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Author: Lynda J. Morgan
Date: Feb. 2019
From: Journal of Southern History(Vol. 85, Issue 1)
Publisher: Southern Historical Association
Document Type: Book review
Length: 951 words
Lexile Measure: 1320L

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Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation. Edited by David W. Blight and Jim Downs. Foreword by Eric Foner. UnCivil Wars. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017. Pp. xviii, 190. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978 0-8203-5149-0; cloth, $79.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-5148-3.)

This book comprises eleven essays in three sections. Part 1, "From Slavery to Freedom," highlights freedpeople's marriage rituals, the effects of freedom on the expansion of the federal government, and the need to incorporate slavery and prior Atlantic emancipations into U.S. emancipation studies. Part 2, "The Politics of Freedom," interprets the language of freedom and contests over democracy. Part 3, "Meditations on the Meaning of Freedom," presents personal accounts of working in the field and the archives. While identifying historiographical patterns and suggesting new directions, the volume's chief aim is "to better understand the emancipation of four million people during the Civil War and Reconstruction" (p. x). The authors pose new questions about gender, kinship, violence, geographical and chronological boundaries, and the effects of slavery and freedom on the construction of American empire. They explicitly use their findings to address current, and strikingly familiar, limits to freedom and equality. Most address the dominant paradigm of freedom and its multiple meanings, arguing both for and against its ruling influence in the field.

In Part 1, Richard Newman's "The Grammar of Emancipation: Putting Final Freedom in Context" explains how interpretations of earlier emancipations informed hopes and fears of the potential...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A575902200