David Brion Davis is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale and Director Emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He is the author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World.


How They Stopped Slavery: A New Perspective

Eastman Johnson: The Ride for Liberty, the Fugitive Slaves, circa 1862

Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865

by James Oakes
While historians have long countered the myth that slavery was not the central cause of the Civil War, they have clung to the view that the Union’s opposition to slavery developed very slowly and almost reluctantly, largely due to the Republicans’ commitment to the constitutional ban on “interference” with slavery …

Should You Have Been an Abolitionist?

Hale Aspacio Woodruff: The Underground Railroad, 68 3/16 x 123 1/2 inches, 1942; from the exhibition ‘Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College,’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, June 9–September 2, 2012. The catalog, by Stephanie Mayer Heydt, is published by the museum and distributed by University of Washington Press.

The Abolitionist Imagination

by Andrew Delbanco, with commentaries by John Stauffer, Manisha Sinha, Darryl Pinckney, and Wilfred M. McClay
In 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence and “all men are created equal,” racial slavery was a legal and thriving institution from Canada all the way south to Argentina and Chile. The transatlantic slave trade was moving toward its peak in the 1790s and would continue for ninety-one …

Honor Thy Honor

Kwame Anthony Appiah, November 2010

The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen

by Kwame Anthony Appiah
When I told four knowledgeable friends that I was writing on Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Honor Code, they all agreed that the very idea of “honor” is now virtually obsolete. They were highly skeptical when I mentioned Appiah’s claim that it was a sudden transition from old to new forms …

The Universal Attractions of Slavery

John Henry, right, an escaped slave who joined the Union Army as a servant, 1861–1865

Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery

by Seymour Drescher
If I were to ask most Americans what comes to mind in response to the words “slave” and “slavery,” I would probably get an image of an African-American picking cotton in Mississippi or Africans being jammed into the hold of a slave ship. But if an Englishman had been asked …

He Changed the New World

Toussaint Louverture: A Biography

by Madison Smartt Bell
The Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804, mostly led by Toussaint Louverture, may well have been the most important single event in the history of New World slavery. Despite the revolution’s relatively small scale, its historical influence for some sixty or seventy years can even be compared to that of the 1917 …

Blacks: Damned by the Bible

The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

by David M. Goldenberg
In Mark Twain’s still underappreciated novel Pudd’nhead Wilson, Roxy, a recently freed Missouri slave who acts and speaks like a black even though “only one-sixteenth of her was black,” shocks her arrogant grown son Tom Driscoll by informing him for the first time that she is his true mother: “Yassir, …