100 books like Dark Work

By Christy Clark-Pujara,

Here are 100 books that Dark Work fans have personally recommended if you like Dark Work. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution

Joan E. Cashin Author Of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

From my list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Ohio State, where I have taught for most of my career. I have always been fascinated by how people in different regions define their own identities, how other Americans perceive them, and how these ideas change over time. Having lived through several wars (as a civilian), I have observed that social and political conflicts on the homefront can be intense in their own right and that non-military events and military events are often connected. In my work, I have published on gender, race, slavery, family, material culture, legal history, and environmental history, from the Revolution through the Civil War. 

Joan's book list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America

Joan E. Cashin Why did Joan love this book?

The first scholarly biography of an unusual white woman who had a long career as a planter and agricultural innovator. 

Pinckney was comfortable in wielding power, and she mixed with some of the most famous men and women in the Revolutionary Era. This book is also a page turner. I believe readers will enjoy the way it sheds light on the complexity of human behavior.

By Lorri Glover,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eliza Lucas Pinckney as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The award-winning biography of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, an innovative, highly regarded, and successful woman plantation owner during the Revolutionary era

"Glover not only recovers the life of a remarkable eighteenth-century woman, she also issues a challenge to the gendered narrative of the Age of Revolution. Eliza Lucas Pinckney would undoubtedly approve!"-Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

Winner of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic's James Bradford Biography Prize and the South Carolina Historical Society's George C. Rogers Jr. Book Award

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) reshaped the colonial South Carolina economy…


Book cover of Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South

Joan E. Cashin Author Of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

From my list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Ohio State, where I have taught for most of my career. I have always been fascinated by how people in different regions define their own identities, how other Americans perceive them, and how these ideas change over time. Having lived through several wars (as a civilian), I have observed that social and political conflicts on the homefront can be intense in their own right and that non-military events and military events are often connected. In my work, I have published on gender, race, slavery, family, material culture, legal history, and environmental history, from the Revolution through the Civil War. 

Joan's book list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America

Joan E. Cashin Why did Joan love this book?

Black people, enslaved and free, sued whites in court in Mississippi and Louisiana, and sometimes they won. 

Welch researched hundreds of documents in some archives off the beaten path. She discovered a hitherto unknown chapter of African American life which changes our perspective on the legal system. 

I felt inspired by the courage and resilience of the litigants. 

By Kimberly M. Welch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the antebellum Natchez district, in the heart of slave country, black people sued white people in all-white courtrooms. They sued to enforce the terms of their contracts, recover unpaid debts, recuperate back wages, and claim damages for assault. They sued in conflicts over property and personal status. And they often won. Based on new research conducted in courthouse basements and storage sheds in rural Mississippi and Louisiana, Kimberly Welch draws on over 1,000 examples of free and enslaved black litigants who used the courts to protect their interests and reconfigure their place in a tense society.

To understand their…


Book cover of Hearts Beating for Liberty: Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest

Joan E. Cashin Author Of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

From my list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Ohio State, where I have taught for most of my career. I have always been fascinated by how people in different regions define their own identities, how other Americans perceive them, and how these ideas change over time. Having lived through several wars (as a civilian), I have observed that social and political conflicts on the homefront can be intense in their own right and that non-military events and military events are often connected. In my work, I have published on gender, race, slavery, family, material culture, legal history, and environmental history, from the Revolution through the Civil War. 

Joan's book list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America

Joan E. Cashin Why did Joan love this book?

Robertson focuses on dedicated female abolitionists in the Midwest, whom scholars have neglected. 

They threw themselves into their activism, supporting boycotts, aiding runaway slaves, and supporting reform parties. She highlights their flexibility and pragmatism, including their willingness to work with abolitionists of all backgrounds.

I found this title uplifting.

By Stacey M. Robertson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hearts Beating for Liberty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Challenging traditional histories of abolition, this book shifts the focus away from the East to show how the women of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin helped build a vibrant antislavery movement in the Old Northwest.

Stacey Robertson argues that the environment of the Old Northwest--with its own complicated history of slavery and racism--created a uniquely collaborative and flexible approach to abolitionism. Western women helped build this local focus through their unusual and occasionally transgressive activities. They plunged into Liberty Party politics, vociferously supported a Quaker-led boycott of slave goods, and tirelessly aided fugitives and free blacks in their communities.…


Book cover of Loyalty and Loss: Alabama's Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction

Joan E. Cashin Author Of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

From my list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Ohio State, where I have taught for most of my career. I have always been fascinated by how people in different regions define their own identities, how other Americans perceive them, and how these ideas change over time. Having lived through several wars (as a civilian), I have observed that social and political conflicts on the homefront can be intense in their own right and that non-military events and military events are often connected. In my work, I have published on gender, race, slavery, family, material culture, legal history, and environmental history, from the Revolution through the Civil War. 

Joan's book list on gender and race in 18th and 19th Century America

Joan E. Cashin Why did Joan love this book?

Storey reveals that a substantial number of white Alabamians strongly opposed secession and the Confederacy. 

The homefront, much like the battlefield, was a scene of protracted power struggles. This is also an important work on historical memory, for after 1865, these Unionists were forgotten. 

I loved this book, and many students love reading it.  

By Margaret M. Storey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Loyalty and Loss as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though slavery was widespread and antislavery sentiment rare in Alabama, there emerged a small loyalist population, mostly in the northern counties, that persisted in the face of overwhelming odds against their cause. Margaret M. Storey's welcome study uncovers and explores those Alabamians who maintained allegiance to the Union when their state seceded in 1861, and beyond. Storey's extensive, groundbreaking research discloses a socioeconomically diverse group that included slaveholders and nonslaveholders, business people, professionals, farmers, and blacks. By considering the years 1861-1874 as a whole, she clearly connects loyalists' sometimes brutal wartime treatment with their postwar behavior.


Book cover of Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War

Kevin M. Levin Author Of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth

From my list on slavery and the confederacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and educator based in Boston. I have authored three books and numerous essays on the Civil War era. You can find my op-eds in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Daily Beast. Over the past few years, I have worked with students and teachers across the country to better understand the current controversy surrounding Confederate monuments.

Kevin's book list on slavery and the confederacy

Kevin M. Levin Why did Kevin love this book?

The Confederacy was consistent throughout most of the war that Black men could not be recruited to serve in the army as soldiers. This was a war to preserve slavery and white supremacy and Black enlisted men would have undermined the very justification for secession and the creation of a new nation. As the war entered its fourth year, however, more and more people realized that this policy was no longer tenable. Historian Bruce Levine offers a thorough analysis of the very public and bitterly divisive debate that took place throughout the Confederacy in 1864 over whether slaves could be recruited as soldiers. Confederates debated this subject in the capital of Richmond, in the army, and in countless newspapers. The question was clear: Should the Confederacy recruit Black men as a way to avoid defeat? That it took the Confederate government until mid-March 1865 to finally approve slave enlistment—much too…

By Bruce Levine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confederate Emancipation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In early 1864, as the Confederate Army of Tennessee licked its wounds after being routed at the Battle of Chattanooga, Major-General Patrick Cleburne (the "Stonewall of the West") proposed that "the most courageous of our slaves" be trained as soldiers and that "every slave in the South who shall remain true to the Confederacy in this war" be freed.
In Confederate Emancipation, Bruce Levine looks closely at such Confederate plans to arm and free slaves. He shows that within a year of Cleburne's proposal, which was initially rejected out of hand, Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, and Robert E. Lee…


Book cover of Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery

Frank J. Cirillo Author Of The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Struggle to Transform the Union

From my list on the long and difficult fight against slavery in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent many a night growing up glued to the television, watching Ken Burns’ Civil War. But as I got older, I found my interests stretching beyond the battles and melancholic music on the screen. I decided to become a historian of abolitionism–the radical reform movement that fought to end the evils of slavery and racial prejudice. Through my research, I seek to explain the substantial influence of the abolitionist movement as well as its significant limitations. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2017, and have since held positions at such institutions as The New School, the University of Bonn, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Frank's book list on the long and difficult fight against slavery in America

Frank J. Cirillo Why did Frank love this book?

Reidy's book is an elegant and engaging read, but it is not an easy one.

It illustrates how the process of emancipation actually played out on the ground after Abraham Lincoln issued his famed Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It takes us away from the marble edifices of Civil War Washington and into the dirt, showing us how messy the process of implementing freedom truly was.

It does so, moreover, by centering our attention on the actual men and women fighting for their own freedom. Reidy offers us historians a seminal reminder: change is not made solely from on high.

By Joseph P. Reidy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Illusions of Emancipation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As students of the Civil War have long known, emancipation was not merely a product of Lincoln's proclamation or of Confederate defeat in April 1865. It was a process that required more than legal or military action. With enslaved people fully engaged as actors, emancipation necessitated a fundamental reordering of a way of life whose implications stretched well beyond the former slave states. Slavery did not die quietly or quickly, nor did freedom fulfill every dream of the enslaved or their allies. The process unfolded unevenly.

In this sweeping reappraisal of slavery's end during the Civil War era, Joseph P.…


Book cover of Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America

Seth Mallios Author Of Born a Slave, Died a Pioneer: Nathan Harrison and the Historical Archaeology of Legend

From my list on confronting slavery and how it impacts society today.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an archaeologist, anthropologist, and historian who has worked on both the East Coast (Flowerdew Hundred and Jamestown, Virginia) and West Coast (San Diego, California) of the U.S. and dug sites from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, I am passionate about how archaeology can serve to offer new insights for marginalized peoples in American history. I specialize in exposing how narrow thinking, revisionism, and myth-making warp local histories and turn them into fabrications of the present. 

Seth's book list on confronting slavery and how it impacts society today

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

As a historical archaeologist, I find this book especially compelling. Stolen Childhood does a fine job of blending insights from a variety of primary-source narratives and recently uncovered archaeological artifacts; but these insights transcend the specific research questions regarding the conditions of daily life for slave youth in nineteenth-century America and indirectly make an intriguing case for why current archaeologists should pay as much attention to issues of childhood, parenting, and aging as they do to ethnicity, class, and gender.

By Wilma King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stolen Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most important books published on slave society, Stolen Childhood focuses on the millions of children and youth enslaved in 19th-century America. This enlarged and revised edition reflects the abundance of new scholarship on slavery that has emerged in the 15 years since the first edition. While the structure of the book remains the same, Wilma King has expanded its scope to include the international dimension with a new chapter on the transatlantic trade in African children, and the book's geographic boundaries now embrace slave-born children in the North. She includes data about children owned by Native Americans…


Book cover of The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers

Chandra Manning Author Of What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

From my list on accounts of the Civil War from people who were there.

Why am I passionate about this?

Despite what my kids think, I am not actually old enough to have “been there” during the Civil War itself, but I have spent my entire professional career studying it. Years in archives reading other people’s mail, old newspaper accounts, dusty diaries, and handwritten testimonies, along with sifting through records books and ledgers of all descriptions have taught me exactly how intertwined slavery, Civil War, and emancipation all were, and I am dedicated to trying to explain the connections to anyone who reads my books, stumbles across my digital history work, or sits in my classroom at Georgetown University, where I teach history. Two good places to see the results of my efforts include What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War which won the Avery Craven Award for best book on the Civil War and was a finalist for the Lincoln Prize and Frederick Douglass Prize, and Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War, which won the Jefferson Davis Prize and was also a finalist for the Lincoln Prize.

Chandra's book list on accounts of the Civil War from people who were there

Chandra Manning Why did Chandra love this book?

As the Union Army penetrated into Confederate territory, enslaved men, women, and children fled bondage to take refuge with the army. Roughly half a million formerly enslaved people exited slavery in this way, spending the war in encampments appended to the army or in Union occupied cities. They influenced the progress and outcome of the war as well as emancipation. They also encountered conditions that amounted to a humanitarian crisis, one that soldiers tasked with fighting a war were ill-equipped to meet. Civilians from the North made their way to camps and occupied cities to serve as relief workers. Harriet Jacobs headed South as just such a worker. Jacobs herself had been born a slave and made a harrowing escape decades earlier, but when war broke out, she braved the South again. She made her way to Alexandria, Virginia where she worked among the many freedom seekers who came to…

By Joseph M Thomas, Scott Korb, Jean Fagan Yellin

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the only collection of papers of an African American woman held in slavery.Although millions of African American women were held in bondage over the 250 years that slavery was legal in the United States, Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) is the only one known to have left papers testifying to her life. Her autobiography, ""Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"", holds a central place in the canon of American literature as the most important slave narrative by an African American woman.Born in Edenton, North Carolina, Jacobs escaped from her owner in her mid-twenties and hid in the cramped…


Book cover of On Juneteenth

Nina Silber Author Of This War Ain't Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America

From my list on the ongoing legacy of the American Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having grown up visiting lots of historic sites – and hearing my father sing old Civil War tunes (frequently off-key!) on long car trips – I gravitated pretty quickly to studying the Civil War, and its aftermath, when I was in college and then in graduate school. I was particularly interested in the way Americans experienced the Civil War after it was over: the sentimental novels they read; the romantic movies they watched; the reconstructed battlefields they visited. In my work as a professor at Boston University, I try to get students to think about the stories that do, and do not, get told about the Civil War and other events from the past. I suppose the question that always piqued my interest was why people might find the often wildly inaccurate versions of the past so appealing.

Nina's book list on the ongoing legacy of the American Civil War

Nina Silber Why did Nina love this book?

In this brief and powerful book, esteemed historian Annette Gordon-Reed focuses on “Juneteenth”, the day (June 19, 1865) when enslaved workers in Texas were declared free by the Union Army following the conclusion of the Civil War. For Gordon-Reed, a black Texas woman, Juneteenth, recently declared a federal holiday, offers a starting point for pondering the legacy of slavery and emancipation for Afro-Texans and for thinking more broadly about the tension between history and myth. In the course of all this, Gordon-Reed tells her own personal story about navigating the often fraught terrain of her state’s legacy of racial exploitation.

By Annette Gordon-Reed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Juneteenth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Interweaving American history, dramatic family chronicle and searing episodes of memoir, On Juneteenth recounts the origins of the holiday that celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. A descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas in the 1850s, Annette Gordon-Reed, explores the legacies of the holiday.

From the earliest presence of black people in Texas-in the 1500s, well before enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown-to the day in Galveston on 19 June 1865, when General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery, Gordon-Reed's insightful and inspiring essays present the saga of a "frontier" peopled by…


Book cover of Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps

Brian Matthew Jordan Author Of A Thousand May Fall: An Immigrant Regiment's Civil War

From my list on laying bare the human ordeal of the Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War my entire life. As a boy, I met a man in my Ohio hometown who spent his own youth visiting with the last, wrinkled survivors of the Union armies. His memories at once made the Civil War real and immediate for me. I soon devoured every book and walked every battlefield I could find. After earning an undergraduate degree in Civil War Studies at Gettysburg College, I completed my Ph.D. at Yale. I have authored six books on the conflict—one of which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer in History—and teach courses on the Civil War at Sam Houston State University.   

Brian Matthew's book list on laying bare the human ordeal of the Civil War

Brian Matthew Jordan Why did Brian Matthew love this book?

This book recovers—through diligent archival spadework and keen historical empathy—the human realities of emancipation for freedom-seeking enslaved persons. Emancipation, Taylor demonstrates, was a humanitarian refugee crisis acted out amidst the uncertainties of civil warfare. Embattled Freedom supplies a sweeping survey of a complex historical process, but it does so on a human scale—tracking a small group of protagonists as they wind their way to the uncertain asylum of slave refugee (“contraband”) camps. The author’s close attention to the material realities of “contraband” camps—hunger, shelter, and clothing—builds a sense of intimacy and emotional connection. Scholars have established that emancipation was a process, and that the enslaved played a vital role in their own liberation; here is the best account of how that struggle was lived.   

By Amy Murrell Taylor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Embattled Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Civil War was just days old when the first enslaved men, women, and children began fleeing their plantations to seek refuge inside the lines of the Union army as it moved deep into the heart of the Confederacy. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands more followed in a mass exodus from slavery that would destroy the system once and for all. Drawing on an extraordinary survey of slave refugee camps throughout the country, Embattled Freedom reveals as never before the everyday experiences of these refugees from slavery as they made their way through the vast landscape of…


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