Rael (History/Bowdoin Coll.; Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North, 2002, etc.) examines the long, slow death of slavery in the United States, masterfully showing how each event is connected and letting us in on secrets that textbooks never mentioned.
As he tracks the history of abolition from the founding until the end of the Civil War, the author refutes long-held theories with logical, well-researched ones. For example, Georgia and the Carolinas never threatened to reject the Constitution. It would have been suicide, since the Spanish to their south and the Creek Indians to the west threatened them. It is often said that slavery would have died a natural death if left alone. Not at all true, writes Rael; the invention of the cotton gin expanded the cotton industry, requiring even more slaves and more land. What fueled the run-up to the Civil War was a fight to establish slavery in the expanding U.S. The Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional by the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which not only required the slave’s return, but also declared that the federal government had no right to outlaw slavery in any territory. The author rightly states that the turmoil surrounding the three-fifths compromise became the true basis of the conflict. It empowered the slave states in representation, in judicial appointments, and in the Electoral College, giving them the power to block legislation. Rael enlightens us on the wide differences in slavery throughout the New World and its ending through the Caribbean and Latin America, and he effectively shows the difficulties of emancipation, reconstruction, and the pervading white supremacy of the North.
There are not enough superlatives to describe the wealth of information in this book and the bright, clear way in which it is taught. Just buy it.