100 books like Illusions of Emancipation

By Joseph P. Reidy,

Here are 100 books that Illusions of Emancipation fans have personally recommended if you like Illusions of Emancipation. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

From my list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

Kathleen DuVal Why did Kathleen love this book?

Annette Gordon-Reed’s book introduces readers to the enslaved family of a Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson.

What I love about this book is that it upends the traditional picture of Jefferson while neither vilifying nor excusing him. It’s a full picture of a complicated man and the fascinating people who were part of his life. After all, the historian’s task is not to make heroes or villains but to show the full complexity of human beings.

At the center of the story is Sally Hemings, the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife and the mother of some of Jefferson’s children. The book also shows how a careful historian can interpret and evaluate different kinds of evidence, including documents, oral history, and DNA.

By Annette Gordon-Reed,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Hemingses of Monticello as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This epic work-named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times-tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826.


Book cover of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From my list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Why did John love this book?

This epic study traces the destruction of slavery throughout the United States during the Civil War. James Oakes argues, provocatively, that the Civil War did not “become” a war against slavery, as most scholars maintain. Instead, Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans were committed to a war against slavery right from the start. Oakes roots Union emancipation policy in the prewar struggles over slavery, as that institution became an all-consuming issue in national politics. Once hostilities commenced, and as enslaved persons responded by seeking shelter behind Union military lines, Republicans were ready to put their emancipationist views into practice. I may not necessarily agree with Oakes’s argument, but his book is a monumental achievement and essential reading on the topic.

By James Oakes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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.

By summer 1861 the federal government invoked military authority to begin freeing slaves, immediately and…


Book cover of The Women's Fight: The Civil War's Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation

Nancy A. Hewitt Author Of Radical Friend: Amy Kirby Post and Her Activist Worlds

From my list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Rochester, New York, where I was raised, Susan Anthony and Frederick Douglass are local heroes. But in the late 1960s, I was drawn more to grassroots movements than charismatic leaders. Despite dropping out of college—twice—I completed a B.A. in 1974 and then pursued a PhD in History. My 1981 dissertation and first book focused on three networks of mainly white female activists in nineteenth-century Rochester. Of the dozens of women I studied, Amy Post most clearly epitomized the power of interracial, mixed-sex, and cross-class movements for social justice. After years of inserting Post in articles, textbooks, and websites, I finally published Radical Friend in hopes of inspiring scholars and activists to follow her lead. 

Nancy's book list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US

Nancy A. Hewitt Why did Nancy love this book?

Thavolia Glymph analyzes the many ways that women—white and Black, enslaved and free, North and South—sought to promote or constrain the radical transformations promised by the Civil War. She interweaves well-known stories of white nurses and teachers and northern white feminists who labored to expand their claims on the nation with the lesser-known efforts of free, fugitive, and self-emancipated Black women and poor and working-class white women to ensure that the war led to greater liberty. Even some plantation mistresses became more politically active in efforts to impede Union military campaigns. This powerful book expands our concept of activism, forcing us to rethink its many meanings, sites, and goals in times of crisis. 

By Thavolia Glymph,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Women's Fight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historians of the Civil War often speak of "wars within a war--the military fight, wartime struggles on the home front, and the political and moral battle to preserve the Union and end slavery. In this broadly conceived book, Thavolia Glymph provides a comprehensive new history of women's roles and lives in the Civil War--North and South, white and black, slave and free--showing how women were essentially and fully engaged in all three arenas. Glymph focuses on the ideas and ideologies that drove women's actions, allegiances, and politics. We encounter women as they stood their ground, moved into each other's territory,…


Book cover of Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From my list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Why did John love this book?

Jim Downs offers an essential corrective to the view of emancipation as a kind of liberal or progressive “triumphalist narrative.” Downs approaches the illness and death that the freed people suffered during and after the Civil War as a major public health crisis. He does not question the historical necessity or the morality of emancipation, but he shows that the disruptions and chaos that attended emancipation—often exacerbated by federal policy—also resulted in immeasurable human suffering and countless deaths. Historians have long recognized that emancipation was a messy affair. But what I find especially compelling is that Downs raises the question of whether the hardship caused by federal emancipation policy was intrinsic to that policy (however unintentional) or incidental—what we might call today “collateral damage.”

By Jim Downs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sick from Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people.
In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history-that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freedpeople.…


Book cover of Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From my list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Why did John love this book?

Chandra Manning explores an essential but oddly overlooked aspect of wartime emancipation—the experiences of freed people in the “contraband” camps and other places of refuge that the federal military established in occupied Confederate territory. While this might seem like a narrow topic, Manning’s book addresses any number of larger issues surrounding the war and emancipation, and it brims with original insights. She provides an overview of life in these places of “troubled refuge,” but she also delves deeply into particular camps, showing the experiences of individual people. Manning also argues—persuasively, I think—that the camps served as training grounds in which the freed people came to stake a claim not only to freedom but also to equal citizenship guaranteed by the national government.

By Chandra Manning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of What This Cruel War Was Over, a vivid portrait of the Union army’s escaped-slave refugee camps and how they shaped the course of emancipation and citizenship in the United States.

Even before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, slaves recognized that their bondage was at the root of the war they knew was coming, and they began running to the Union army. By the war’s end, nearly half a million had taken refuge behind Union lines in improvised “contraband camps.” These were crowded and dangerous places, with conditions approaching those of a humanitarian crisis. Yet families…


Book cover of Degrees of Equality: Abolitionist Colleges and the Politics of Race

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?

This book does a fantastic job of illustrating something that I explore in my own work: pro-slavery (and anti-Black) white Americans were not the only obstacles facing abolitionists in the fight for racial equality.

The abolitionist movement itself was often divided along racial lines. Black abolitionists pushed for radical, egalitarian change in all aspects of American life. When push came to shove, however, many of their white counterparts had a limit as to how far they would go.

Bell shows how this dynamic played out at progressive colleges like Oberlin before, during, and after the Civil War. The implications of this book, however, stretch far beyond those campuses–and far beyond that time.

By John Frederick Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The abolitionist movement not only helped bring an end to slavery in the United States but also inspired the large-scale admission of African Americans to the country's colleges and universities. Oberlin College changed the face of American higher education in 1835 when it began enrolling students irrespective of race and sex. Camaraderie among races flourished at the Ohio institution and at two other leading abolitionist colleges, Berea in Kentucky and New York Central, where Black and white students allied in the fight for emancipation and civil rights. After Reconstruction, however, color lines emerged on even the most progressive campuses. For…


Book cover of Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers

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?

Newman's work opened my eyes to a remarkable man I had previously known little about: Bishop Richard Allen, the founder and leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Born into slavery, Allen freed himself and dedicated his life to a singular cause: providing enslaved African Americans a safe space where they would be treated as dignified human beings rather than property. His AME Church changed the course of African American history.

Newman demonstrates how Allen was also a forceful abolitionist whose invocations of patriotism to win over white Americans proved a lasting influence on the cause. Quite simply, it is a wonderful biography.

By Richard S. Newman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Freedom's Prophet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gold Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Biography Category
Brings to life the inspiring story of one of America's Black Founding Fathers, featured in the forthcoming documentary The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song
Freedom's Prophet is a long-overdue biography of Richard Allen, founder of the first major African American church and the leading black activist of the early American republic. A tireless minister, abolitionist, and reformer, Allen inaugurated some of the most important institutions in African American history and influenced nearly every black leader of the nineteenth century, from Douglass…


Book cover of Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence

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?

This book demonstrates a point that I always try to make to students: the antislavery movement was much more than mass meetings and heroic escapes along the Underground Railroad.

It was far more complex–and, at times, far more violent. Many Black activists in the years before the Civil War turned to the tactics of violence to try and shake a complacent nation into action. They did so in desperation, and only with much anguish–and much controversy.

Jackson's book gets deep into the weeds of how the struggle for antislavery progress actually worked. 

By Kellie Carter Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From its origins in the 1750s, the white-led American abolitionist movement adhered to principles of "moral suasion" and nonviolent resistance as both religious tenet and political strategy. But by the 1850s, the population of enslaved Americans had increased exponentially, and such legislative efforts as the Fugitive Slave Act and the Supreme Court's 1857 ruling in the Dred Scott case effectively voided any rights black Americans held as enslaved or free people. As conditions deteriorated for African Americans, black abolitionist leaders embraced violence as the only means of shocking Northerners out of their apathy and instigating an antislavery war.
In Force…


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 Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island

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?

This book establishes that slavery was central to the Rhode Island economy from the colonial period well into the nineteenth century.

For many years, historians concentrated on slavery in the South, but we now have great scholarship on slavery in the North. Clark-Pujara illustrates how the black community, including the women, struggled against oppression in New England.  

Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down.

By Christy Clark-Pujara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tells the story of one state in particular whose role in the slave trade was outsized: Rhode Island
Historians have written expansively about the slave economy and its vital role in early American economic life. Like their northern neighbors, Rhode Islanders bought and sold slaves and supplies that sustained plantations throughout the Americas; however, nowhere else was this business so important. During the colonial period trade with West Indian planters provided Rhode Islanders with molasses, the key ingredient for their number one export: rum. More than 60 percent of all the slave ships that left North America left from Rhode…


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