Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "race" in New England, 1780-1860

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Cornell University Press, 1998 - History - 296 pages
2 Reviews

Following the abolition of slavery in New England, white citizens seemed to forget that it had ever existed there. Drawing on a wide array of primary sourcesófrom slaveowners' diaries to children's daybooks to racist broadsidesóJoanne Pope Melish reveals not only how northern society changed but how its perceptions changed as well. Melish explores the origins of racial thinking and practices to show how ill-prepared the region was to accept a population of free people of color in its midst. Because emancipation was gradual, whites transferred prejudices shaped by slavery to their relations with free people of color, and their attitudes were buttressed by abolitionist rhetoric which seemed to promise riddance of slaves as much as slavery.

Melish tells how whites came to blame the impoverished condition of people of color on their innate inferiority, how racialization became an important component of New England ante-bellum nationalism, and how former slaves actively participated in this discourse by emphasizing their African identity. Placing race at the center of New England history, she contends that slavery was important not only as a labor system but also as an institutionalized set of relations. The collective amnesia about local slavery's existence became a significant component of New England regional identity.

  

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The account of Joseph De Mink is erroneous. His captor, Cook, was ordered to pay his fare home. Noah Waddams had succeeded in helping De Mink (Deming) regain his freedom and Joseph De Mink sought justice from the legal system and was freed and returned home. The legal proceedings and numerous accounts make this clear.
This well documented case brings into question the accuracy of other accounts found in Joanne Pope Melish's publication.
Lois Dean
loicour@gmail.com
 

Review: Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780-1860

User Review  - Linda - Goodreads

A clear, well documented, and fascinating account of the history of inter-racial relations in the US from its earliest days. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
New England Slavery
11
The Antislavery Impulse
50
Gradual Emancipation in Practice
84
Embodying Difference
119
Enacting the Antislavery Promise
163
The Free White Republic as New England
210
Free People of Color and the Discourse
238
Index
287
Copyright

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American Abolitionists
Stanley Harrold
No preview available - 2001
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About the author (1998)

Melish is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Brown University.

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