Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865
By James Oakes
Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that 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 shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. These two aims―”Liberty and Union, one and inseparable”―were intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war.
“The traditional narrative of the Civil War is a war for reunion that eventually embraced emancipation as a co-equal objective via the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. In Freedom National, Oakes disputes this tradition by showing that emancipation began almost immediately with the outbreak of war in 1861. What changed is not whether emancipation would take place, but the scope and magnitude of that emancipation, which grew from the ad hoc contraband policy instigated by enslaved people in May 1861 to the 13th Amendment’s redefinition of the Constitution that indeed made freedom national in December 1865.” – Museum Program Associate, Curtis Harris
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