Freedom in a Slave Society: Stories from the Antebellum South (Cambridge Studies on the American South)

Freedom in a Slave Society: Stories from the Antebellum South (Cambridge Studies on the American South)

By: Johanna Nicol Shields (author)Hardback

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Before the Civil War, most Southern white people were as strongly committed to freedom for their kind as to slavery for African Americans. This study views that tragic reality through the lens of eight authors - representatives of a South that seemed, to them, destined for greatness but was, we know, on the brink of destruction. Exceptionally able and ambitious, these men and women won repute among the educated middle classes in the Southwest, South and the nation, even amid sectional tensions. Although they sometimes described liberty in the abstract, more often these authors discussed its practical significance: what it meant for people to make life's important choices freely and to be responsible for the results. They publicly insisted that freedom caused progress, but hidden doubts clouded this optimistic vision. Ultimately, their association with the oppression of slavery dimmed their hopes for human improvement, and fear distorted their responses to the sectional crisis.

About Author

Johanna Nicol Shields holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. She taught at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) between 1967 and 2007 and is the founding director of the UAH Humanities Center. She has won numerous awards for teaching and research, including UAH's Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award. Shields has held research awards from the American Association of University Women and National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work has been published in the Journal of the Early Republic, the Journal of Southern History, Southern Cultures, Alabama Review and Mississippi Quarterly. She is the author of The Line of Duty: Maverick Congressmen and the Development of American Political Culture, 1836-1860 (1985), which won the Ralph Gabriel Prize awarded by the American Studies Association and Greenwood Press.


1. Regarding a 'weird utopia'; Part I. The Origins of Individual Freedom: 2. Self-making in southwestern towns; 3. The domestic foundations of self-determination; 4. The voluntary bonds of friendship; Part II. Writing Freedom, with Slaves: 5. Southwestern histories for a divided market; 6. Slave characters and the problem of human nature; Part III. The Crisis of the Rising South: 7. Slavery and political trust; 8. Self-determination and slavery in conflict.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9781107013377
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 344
  • ID: 9781107013377
  • weight: 710
  • ISBN10: 1107013372

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