The most recommended Abolitionist books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to Abolitionist, and here are their favorite Abolitionist books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of Abolitionist book?

Loading...

Book cover of The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid

David S. Reynolds Author Of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

From my list on John Brown the abolitionist.

Why am I passionate about this?

David S. Reynolds is a Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author or editor of 16 books, on subjects that include John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman Andrew Jackson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the literary and popular culture of the American Renaissance. He is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Book Prize, the Ambassador Book Award, the Christian Gauss Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

David's book list on John Brown the abolitionist

David S. Reynolds Why did David love this book?

This skillfully edited anthology of contemporary responses to Brown lets us experience firsthand the controversies surrounding Brown during his lifetime. Reprinted in this volume are dozens of 19th-century writings--letters, speeches, articles, poems, diary entries--that demonstrate just how central John Brown was to the cultural and political life of his time. Included in the book are writings about Brown by some of the century's most notable people: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, Jefferson Davis, Herman Melville, Stephen Douglas, Louisa May Alcott, Victor Hugo, and Karl Marx, to name a few.

By John Stauffer (editor), Zoe Trodd (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When John Brown led twenty-one men in an attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, he envisioned a biblical uprising of millions of armed bondsmen, thus ridding the nation of the scourge of slavery. The insurrection did not happen, and Brown and the other surviving raiders were quickly captured and executed. This landmark anthology, which collects contemporary speeches, letters, newspaper articles, journals, poems, and songs, demonstrates that Brown's actions nonetheless altered the course of American history.

John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd have assembled an impressive and wide-ranging collection of responses to Brown's raid: Brown's own…


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 Blood & Sugar

Maggie Humm Author Of Talland House

From my list on re-visioning history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many readers, I am fascinated by strong creative women in the past and how their lives can inspire women today. As an academic, before my Creative Writing Diploma and transformation to a creative writer, I taught historical novels of many kinds. I now enjoy devising fascinating women whose lives have significant importance for today’s issues. To talk about my favourite historical figure Virginia Woolf, I have had invitations from galleries and universities around the world, including several in the US and Europe, as well as Brazil, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, and Norway. France Culture and Arte TV, and Turkey TRT Television also featured my writing. 

Maggie's book list on re-visioning history

Maggie Humm Why did Maggie love this book?

Winner of the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award, Blood & Sugar is a page-turner of a crime thriller set in London and Greenwich 1781. Captain Harry Corsham must discover why his old friend the abolitionist Tad Archer was murdered. Corsham’s quest may do irreparable damage to the slave trade. I live in Greenwich, much of which is unchanged architecturally since the eighteenth century. Walking the streets portrayed in the novel brings alive that world. Slave trade monuments are currently being taken down in the UK and US and Blood & Sugar depicts the beginnings of that emotional and necessary journey.

By Laura Shepherd-Robinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood & Sugar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A page-turner of a crime thriller . . . This is a world conveyed with convincing, terrible clarity'
C. J. Sansom

Blood & Sugar is the thrilling debut historical crime novel from Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock - horribly tortured and branded with a slaver's mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham - a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career - is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable…


Book cover of Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent

Richard J.M. Blackett Author Of Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle

From my list on abolitionist biographies about African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was not trained in African American history, but first developed a passion for it during my first teaching job in Pittsburgh, where a number of my colleagues were interested in locating the origins of Black Nationalism and began researching the life of a local black physician, Martin R. Delany. That led me to a wider exploration of nineteenth-century African American history.

Richard's book list on abolitionist biographies about African American history

Richard J.M. Blackett Why did Richard love this book?

A penetrating story of the person many considered the intellectual leader of nineteenth-century African American.

A man who rose from poverty in New York City to gain a degree from Cambridge University, spent almost thirty years in Liberia, wrote some of the most incisive analyses of African civilization before returning to America where he mentored W.E. B. DuBois and other leaders of the new Civil Rights Movement.

By Wilson Jeremiah Moses,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alexander Crummell (1819-1898) was one the most prominent Afro-American intellectuals of the nineteenth-century. This biography places Crummell's ideas within the context of his life and times.


Book cover of The History of Mary Prince

Paddy Docherty Author Of Blood and Bronze: The British Empire and the Sack of Benin

From my list on colonial wrongdoing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of empire, with a particular interest in the British Empire, colonial violence, and the ways in which imperialism is shown and talked about in popular culture. I studied at Oxford University, and having lived in and travelled around much of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, I am always trying to understand a bit more if I can… but reading is best for that… My first book was The Khyber Pass.

Paddy's book list on colonial wrongdoing

Paddy Docherty Why did Paddy love this book?

A landmark work by virtue of being the first book by a black woman to be published in Britain, this is a powerfully harrowing account of Mary’s own life as a slave in the Caribbean. Though only short, it supplies valuable testimony on the gruesome British exploitation of enslaved people over the centuries, and the many cruelties inflicted upon Mary personally by her brutal ‘owners’. Should be required reading for all those who think of the British Empire with nostalgia.

By Mary Prince,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The History of Mary Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Prince was born into slavery in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. While she was later living in London, her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom. This edition of "The History of Mary Prince" is Volume 4 of the Black History Series. It is printed on high quality paper with a durable cover.


Book cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin

John J. Miller Author Of The First Assassin

From my list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it.

Why am I passionate about this?

John J. Miller is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, a writer for National Review, and the host of two book-themed podcasts, The Great Books and The Bookmonger. His books include The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football and Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas. He lives on a dirt road in rural Michigan.

John's book list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it

John J. Miller Why did John love this book?

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said when he met Stowe. The quote may be apocryphal, but it points to a truth about the 1852 novel that shaped American opinions about the cruelty and injustice of slavery. The writing is a bit melodramatic for modern sensibilities, but it’s hard to beat the scene in which the escaped slave Eliza tries to carry her young son across an icy river for freedom on the other side.

By Harriet Beecher Stowe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery"-Alfred Kazin

"To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's cabin may...prove a startling experience"-Edmund Wilson

In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe created America's first black literary hero as well as the nation's antecedent protest novel. The novel's vast influence on attitudes towards African American slavery was considered an incitation towards the American Civil War; conjointly, its powerful anti-slavery message resonated with readers around the world at its time of publication.

With unashamed sentimentality and expressions of faith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle…


Book cover of Abolition Revolution

Anitra Nelson

From Anitra's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Chai-tea-addict Anti-economist Human

Anitra's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Anitra Nelson Why did Anitra love this book?

Abolition sounds destructive, obliterating. But abolition has always been about liberation and change, indeed revolution.

This is the core message of this illuminating manifesto written as if on the barricades: ‘Abolition is a tool to re-imagine revolutionary politics.’ In a wide-ranging set of arguments (theses) and countless stories of transformative activities, Aviah Sarah Day and Shanice Octavia McBean show us how revolutionary we might all become.

By Aviah Sarah Day, Shanice Octavia McBean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis triggered abolitionist shockwaves. Calls to defund the police found receptive ears around the world. Shortly after, Sarah Everard's murder by a serving police officer sparked a national abolitionist movement in Britain. But to abolish the police, prisons and borders, we must confront the legacy of Empire.

Abolition Revolution is a guide to abolitionist politics in Britain, drawing out rich histories of resistance from rebellion in the colonies to grassroots responses to carceral systems today. The authors argue that abolition is key to reconceptualising revolution for our times - linking it with materialist feminisms, anti-capitalist class…


Book cover of John Brown

David S. Reynolds Author Of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

From my list on John Brown the abolitionist.

Why am I passionate about this?

David S. Reynolds is a Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author or editor of 16 books, on subjects that include John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman Andrew Jackson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the literary and popular culture of the American Renaissance. He is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Book Prize, the Ambassador Book Award, the Christian Gauss Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

David's book list on John Brown the abolitionist

David S. Reynolds Why did David love this book?

First published in 1909, this succinct biography by a leading Black author and reformer spearheaded a tradition of appreciative commentary on Brown by African Americans. Brushing aside longstanding critiques of John Brown as a fiend, a fanatic, and a traitor, Du Bois explores the depth of Brown’s antislavery commitment and his willingness to sacrifice his own life in order to bring about the emancipation of Amerca’s 4 million enslaved people. Du Bois makes the memorable generalization: “John Brown was right.”

By W.E.B. Du Bois,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A moving cultural biography of abolitionist martyr John Brown, by one of the most important African-American intellectuals of the twentieth century.

In the history of slavery and its legacy, John Brown looms large as a hero whose deeds partly precipitated the Civil War. As Frederick Douglass wrote: "When John Brown stretched forth his arm ... the clash of arms was at hand." DuBois's biography brings Brown stirringly to life and is a neglected classic.


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 Groups, Interests, and U.S. Public Policy

Anthony J. Nownes Author Of Interest Groups in American Politics: Pressure and Power

From my list on lobbying and advocacy in the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was attracted to the study of interest groups for two main reasons. First, not too many scholars study interest groups and lobbying. This means I might have something to contribute. Second, interest groups are fascinating. Almost every interest you can think of has an interest group trying to affect (or retard) change. Every year, for example, I get to regale my students with stories about little-known interest groups such as the American Frozen Food Institute, the Pink Pistols (a pro-gun LGBTQ group), the California Prune Board, and Declassify UAP (an anti-UFO secrecy group). Talking and learning about interest groups is fun. 

Anthony's book list on lobbying and advocacy in the United States

Anthony J. Nownes Why did Anthony love this book?

The late William Browne pioneered the study of interest group influence. His empirical studies noted that interest groups often get what they want from government because they ask for relatively small changes in policy to which no one objects.

In this book, he reflects on his work and that of others. He concludes that interest groups are an integral part of the American political system and that they seldom manage to strongarm the government into doing things that lots of ordinary Americans do not support.

This book is good because it is the rare academic piece that sings the praises of interest groups and acknowledges all the good they do. After all, most Americans, whether they believe it or not, identify with, support, or belong to some interest group.

And as Browne points out, interest groups have been integral to the adoption of some of the most important and beneficial…

By William P. Browne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Groups, Interests, and U.S. Public Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synthesizing theory, personal research, and prior studies on interest groups and other lobbies, William P. Browne offers a new, insightful overview of organized political interests and explains how and why they affect public policy. Drawing on his extensive experience researching interest groups, Browne assesses the impact that special interests have long had in shaping policy. He explains how they fit into the policymaking process and into society, how they exercise their influence, and how they adapt to changing circumstances. Browne describes the diversity of existing interests-associations, businesses, foundations, churches, and others-and explores the multidimensional tasks of lobbying, from disseminating information…