The Long Emancipation

The Long Emancipation

The Demise of Slavery in the United States

Book - 2015
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Harvard University Press
Ira Berlin offers a framework for understanding slavery’s demise in the United States. Emancipation was not an occasion but a century-long process of brutal struggle by generations of African Americans who were not naive about the price of freedom. Just as slavery was initiated and maintained by violence, undoing slavery also required violence.

Perhaps no event in American history arouses more impassioned debate than the abolition of slavery. Answers to basic questions about who ended slavery, how, and why remain fiercely contested more than a century and a half after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. In The Long Emancipation, Ira Berlin draws upon decades of study to offer a framework for understanding slavery’s demise in the United States. Freedom was not achieved in a moment, and emancipation was not an occasion but a near-century-long process—a shifting but persistent struggle that involved thousands of men and women.

Berlin teases out the distinct characteristics of emancipation, weaving them into a larger narrative of the meaning of American freedom. The most important factor was the will to survive and the enduring resistance of enslaved black people themselves. In striving for emancipation, they were also the first to raise the crucial question of their future status. If they were no longer slaves, what would they be? African Americans provided the answer, drawing on ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence and precepts of evangelical Christianity. Freedom was their inalienable right in a post-slavery society, for nothing seemed more natural to people of color than the idea that all Americans should be equal.

African Americans were not naive about the price of their idealism. Just as slavery was an institution initiated and maintained by violence, undoing slavery also required violence. Freedom could be achieved only through generations of long and brutal struggle.

Baker & Taylor
Argues that the emancipation of the American slaves was not a singular event but a century-long process marked by brutal struggle.

Book News
The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States is a pocket-sized book that provides a study of the conversion of thousands of men, women, and children from property to free people, as well as the effects of slavery and the emancipation process today. It presents discourse on the debate between emancipation that comes from “the top” and grassroots movements. The book focuses on the characteristics of emancipation that provide a larger discourse on the process of becoming free in America, emphasizing that emancipation was not a singular action, but a cumulative movement. The Long Emancipation serves as an excellent historical reference to supplement classes on American history and Black American history. Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts :, Harvard University Press,, 2015
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780674286085
Characteristics: 227 pages ; 19 cm


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