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About Manisha Sinha
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Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly white reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, black and white, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor.
Drawing on extensive archival research, including newly discovered letters and pamphlets, Sinha documents the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the centrality of slave resistance in shaping the ideology and tactics of abolition. This book is a comprehensive history of the abolition movement in a transnational context. It illustrates how the abolitionist vision ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe.
“A full history of the men and women who truly made us free.”—Ira Berlin, The New York Times Book Review
“A stunning new history of abolitionism . . . [Sinha] plugs abolitionism back into the history of anticapitalist protest.”—The Atlantic
“Will deservedly take its place alongside the equally magisterial works of Ira Berlin on slavery and Eric Foner on the Reconstruction Era.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A powerfully unfamiliar look at the struggle to end slavery in the United States . . . as multifaceted as the movement it chronicles.”—The Boston Globe
Sinha discusses some of the major sectional crises of the antebellum era--including nullification, the conflict over the expansion of slavery into western territories, and secession--and offers an important reevaluation of the movement to reopen the African slave trade in the 1850s. In the process she reveals the central role played by South Carolina planter politicians in developing proslavery ideology and the use of states' rights and constitutional theory for the defense of slavery.
Sinha's work underscores the necessity of integrating the history of slavery with the traditional narrative of southern politics. Only by taking into account the political importance of slavery, she insists, can we arrive at a complete understanding of southern politics and the enormity of the issues confronting both northerners and southerners on the eve of the Civil War.
With essays on U.S. history ranging from the American Revolution to the dawn of the twenty-first century, Contested Democracy illuminates struggles waged over freedom and citizenship throughout the American past. Guided by a commitment to democratic citizenship and responsible scholarship, the contributors to this volume insist that rigorous engagement with history is essential to a vital democracy, particularly amid the current erosion of human rights and civil liberties within the United States and abroad. Emphasizing the contradictory ways in which freedom has developed within the United States and in the exercise of American power abroad, these essays probe challenges to American democracy through conflicts shaped by race, slavery, gender, citizenship, political economy, immigration, law, empire, and the idea of the nation state.
In this volume, writers demonstrate how opposition to the expansion of democracy has shaped the American tradition as much as movements for social and political change. By foregrounding those who have been marginalized in U.S society as well as the powerful, these historians and scholars argue for an alternative vision of American freedom that confronts the limitations, failings, and contradictions of U.S. power. Their work provides crucial insight into the role of the United States in this latest age of American empire and the importance of different and oppositional visions of American democracy and freedom.
At a time of intense disillusionment with U.S. politics and of increasing awareness of the costs of empire, these contributors argue that responsible historical scholarship can challenge the blatant manipulation of discourses on freedom. They call for careful and conscientious scholarship not only to illuminate contemporary problems but also to act as a bulwark against mythmaking in the service of cynical political ends.