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African or American?
Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861
Leslie M. ALexander
University of Illinois Press, 2012

During the early national and antebellum eras, black leaders in New York City confronted the tenuous nature of Northern emancipation. Despite the hope of freedom, black New Yorkers faced a series of sociopolitical issues including the persistence of Southern slavery, the threat of forced removal, racial violence, and the denial of American citizenship. Even efforts to create community space within the urban landscape, such as the African Burial Ground and Seneca Village, were eventually demolished to make way for the city's rapid development. In this illuminating history, Leslie M. Alexander chronicles the growth and development of black activism in New York from the formation of the first black organization, the African Society, in 1784 to the eve of the Civil War in 1861. In this critical period, black activists sought to formulate an effective response to their unequal freedom. Examining black newspapers, speeches, and organizational records, this study documents the creation of mutual relief, religious, and political associations, which black men and women infused with African cultural traditions and values.

As Alexander reveals, conflicts over early black political strategy foreshadowed critical ideological struggles that would bedevil the black leadership for generations to come. Initially, black leaders advocated racial uplift through a sense of communalism and connection to their African heritage. Yet by the antebellum era, black activists struggled to reconcile their African identity with a growing desire to gain American citizenship. Ultimately, this battle resulted in competing agendas; while some leaders argued that the black community should dedicate themselves to moral improvement and American citizenship, others began to consider emigrating to Africa or Haiti. In the end, the black leadership resolved to assert an American identity and to expand their mission for full equality and citizenship in the United States. This decision marked a crucial turning point in black political strategy, for it signaled a new phase in the quest for racial advancement and fostered the creation of a nascent Black Nationalism. 


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The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania
Peter Markoe
Westholme Publishing, 2008

An Important Book in America’s Early Encounter with the Arab World 

“A pungent satire on American affairs.” —Samuel Eliot Morison

In 1787, while American sailors languished in a Barbary prison, delegates debated the Constitution in Philadelphia. Despite America’s desire to respond to the crisis, without a central government, the new republic had no means to create a naval force. Enter an anonymously published book, The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania: or, Letters Written by a Native of Algiers on the Affairs of the United States in America, which began circulating among the delegates. Consisting of a series of letters ostensibly written by an Algerian agent “Mehmet” back to his leader, the spy predicted that the former colonies would never be able to resolve their differences and be “ruined by disunion.” The book created a sensation and it helped tip the balance for those in favor of adopting the new Constitution. Following the Constitution’s final ratification in 1789, the United States created a navy and began asserting its power overseas. With its commentary about men and women, business and pleasure, and historical and religious comparisons between nations, The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania provides both a contemporary snapshot of early American life and the political ideas of the period. Never before reprinted, and recently rated one of the five best works in the history of America’s encounter with the Arab world, this new edition is edited by historian Timothy Marr, who reconsiders the importance of this early work in the political and literary history of the United States.


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The Archaeology of Protestant Landscapes
Revealing the Formation of Community Identity in the US South
Kimberly Pyszka
University of Alabama Press, 2023
How religious institutions used landscapes and architecture to express their religious and social ideologies
The Archaeology of Protestant Landscapes focuses on three religious institutions in the US South in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: St. Paul’s Parish Church in coastal South Carolina, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in central Alabama, and Cane Hill College in Northwest Arkansas. Drawing from archaeological surveys and excavations, artifact analysis, archival research, geophysical testing, and architectural information on religious structures, Kimberly Pyszka offers case studies of these institutions, which were located in developing communities that varied socially, politically, and economically.

Pyszka uses these case studies to demonstrate that select religious institutions used and modified natural landscape features to create cultural landscapes to express their ideology, identity, goals, and social, religious, and political power. She notes that where those structures were constructed, how they sat on the landscape, their architectural style, and their overall visual appearance were well-considered decisions made by religious leaders to benefit their organizations, communities, and, sometimes, themselves.

Pyszka also uses these case studies to highlight the social roles that religious organizations played in the development of communities. She points to landscape decisions—specifically to how the architectural design of religious structures was used, intentionally or not, to unite people, often those of differing religious backgrounds—as contributing to the creation of a common identity among people living in new and still-growing settlements, aiding in community development. This book contributes to the growing body of work within historical archaeology on churches, churchyards, and cemeteries and to the increasing awareness among archaeologists of how these sites contribute to questions of identity, consumerism, trade, and colonialism.

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Bones on the Ground
Elizabeth O'Maley
Indiana Historical Society Press, 2014
What happened to the Indians of the Old Northwest Territory? Conflicting portraits emerge and answers often depend on who’s telling the story, with each participant bending and stretching the truth to fit their own view of themselves and the world. This volume presents biographical sketches and first-person narratives of Native Americans, Indian traders, Colonial and American leaders, and events that shaped the Indians’ struggle to maintain possession of their tribal lands in the face of the widespread advancement of white settlement. It covers events and people in the Old Northwest Territory from before the American Revolution through the removal of the Miami from Indiana in 1846. As America’s Indian policy was formed, and often enforced by the U.S. military, and white settlers pushed farther west, some Indians fought the white intruders, while others adopted their ways. In the end, most Indians were unable to hold their ground, and the evidence of their presence now lingers only in found relics and strange-sounding place names.

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Building a Revolutionary State
The Legal Transformation of New York, 1776-1783
Howard Pashman
University of Chicago Press, 2018
How does a popular uprising transform itself from the disorder of revolution into a legal system that carries out the daily administration required to govern? Americans faced this question during the Revolution as colonial legal structures collapsed under the period’s disorder. Yet by the end of the war, Americans managed to rebuild their courts and legislatures, imbuing such institutions with an authority that was widely respected. This remarkable transformation came about in unexpected ways. Howard Pashman here studies the surprising role played by property redistribution—seizing it from Loyalists and transferring it to supporters of independence—in the reconstruction of legal order during the Revolutionary War.

Building a Revolutionary State looks closely at one state, New York, to understand the broader question of how legal structures emerged from an insurgency.  By examining law as New Yorkers experienced it in daily life during the war, Pashman reconstructs a world of revolutionary law that prevailed during America’s transition to independence. In doing so, Pashman explores a central paradox of the revolutionary era:  aggressive enforcement of partisan property rules actually had stabilizing effects that allowed insurgents to build legal institutions that enjoyed popular support.  Tracing the transformation from revolutionary disorder to legal order, Building a New Revolutionary State gives us a radically fresh way to understand the emergence of new states.

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Chains of Love
Slave Couples in Antebellum South Carolina
Emily West
University of Illinois Press, 2004
Historians have traditionally neglected relationships between slave men and women during the antebellum period. In Chains of Love, historian Emily West remedies this situation by investigating the social and cultural history of slave relationships in the very heart of the South. 
Focusing on South Carolina, West deals directly with the most intimate areas of the slave experience including courtship, love and affection between spouses, the abuse of slave women by white men, and the devastating consequences of forced separations. Slaves fought these separations through cross-gender bonding and cross-plantation marriages, illustrating West's thesis about slave marriage as a fierce source of resistance to the oppression of slavery in general.
Making expert use of sources such as the Works Progress Administration narratives, slave autobiographies, slave owner records, and church records, this book-length study is the first to focus on the primacy of spousal support as a means for facing oppression. Chains of Love provides telling insights into the nature of the slave family that emerged from these tensions, celebrates its strength, and reveals new dimensions to the slaves' struggle for freedom.

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Clergy Dissent in the Old South, 1830 - 1865
David B. Chesebrough
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996

Emphasizing the courage required and the cost of dissent before and throughout the Civil War, David B. Chesebrough identifies dissenters among the southern clergy, tells their stories, and discusses the issues that caused these Christians to split from the majority

After an opening chapter in which he provides an overview of the role of the southern clergy in the antebellum and war years, Chesebrough turns to the South’s efforts to present a united proslavery front from 1830 to 1861. Clergy who could not support the "peculiar institution" kept silent, moved to the North, or suffered various consequences for their nonconformity.

Chesebrough then deals with the war years (1861–1865), when opposition to secession and the war was regarded as much more serious than opposition to slavery had been. Some members of the clergy who formally supported and justified slavery could not support secession and war. This was a dangerous stance, sometimes carrying a death sentence.

The final chapter, "The Creative Minority" stresses the important societal role of dissenters, who, history shows, often perceive events more clearly than the majority.

The dissenters Chesebrough discusses include John H. Aughey, a Presbyterian evangelist from Mississippi who was imprisoned and sentenced to death for his opposition to secession; William G. Brownlow, a Methodist cleric and newspaper publisher who, though he later became governor of Tennessee, was imprisoned and forced to leave the state because of his opposition to secession and the Civil War; John Gregg Fee, the founder of Berea College in Kentucky, who was denounced by his family and forced to leave the state because of his abolitionist views; and Melinda Rankin, a Presbyterian missionary worker in Brownsville, Texas, who was dismissed from her teaching responsibilities because of alleged northern sympathies.



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Cracker Culture
Celtic Ways in the Old South
Grady McWhiney
University of Alabama Press, 1989

Cracker Culture is a provocative study of social life in the Old South that probes the origin of cultural differences between the South and the North throughout American history. Among Scotch-Irish settlers the term “Cracker” initially designated a person who boasted, but in American usage the word has come to designate poor whites. McWhiney uses the term to define culture rather than to signify an economic condition. Although all poor whites were Crackers, not all Crackers were poor whites; both, however, were Southerners.

The author insists that Southerners and Northerners were never alike. American colonists who settled south and west of Pennsylvania during the 17th and 18th centuries were mainly from the “Celtic fringe” of the British Isles. The culture that these people retained in the New World accounts in considerable measure for the difference between them and the Yankees of New England, most of whom originated in the lowlands of the southeastern half of the island of Britain. From their solid base in the southern backcountry, Celts and their “Cracker” descendants swept westward throughout the antebellum period until they had established themselves and their practices across the Old South. Basic among those practices that determined their traditional folkways, values, norms, and attitudes was the herding of livestock on the open range, in contrast to the mixed agriculture that was the norm both in southeastern Britain and in New England. The Celts brought to the Old South leisurely ways that fostered idleness and gaiety. Like their Celtic ancestors, Southerners were characteristically violent; they scorned pacifism; they considered fights and duels honorable and consistently ignored laws designed to control their actions. In addition, family and kinship were much more important in Celtic Britain and the antebellum South than in England and the Northern United States. Fundamental differences between Southerners and Northerners shaped the course of antebellum American history; their conflict in the 1860s was not so much brother against brother as culture against culture.

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Creating a Nation of Joiners
Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts
Johann N. Neem
Harvard University Press, 2008

The United States is a nation of joiners. Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville published his observations in Democracy in America, Americans have recognized the distinctiveness of their voluntary tradition. In a work of political, legal, social, and intellectual history, focusing on the grassroots actions of ordinary people, Neem traces the origins of this venerable tradition to the vexed beginnings of American democracy in Massachusetts.

Neem explores the multiple conflicts that produced a vibrant pluralistic civil society following the American Revolution. The result was an astounding release of civic energy as ordinary people, long denied a voice in public debates, organized to advocate temperance, to protect the Sabbath, and to abolish slavery; elite Americans formed private institutions to promote education and their stewardship of culture and knowledge. But skeptics remained. Followers of Jefferson and Jackson worried that the new civil society would allow the organized few to trump the will of the unorganized majority. When Tocqueville returned to France, the relationship between American democracy and its new civil society was far from settled.

The story Neem tells is more pertinent than ever—for Americans concerned about their own civil society, and for those seeking to build civil societies in emerging democracies around the world.


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Descriptions of Western Pennsylvania 1720–1829
John W. Harpster
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1938
Crossroads is a collection of thirty-seven colorful and perceptive writings left by early travelers and settlers who ventured west of the Allegheny Mountains. Traders, surveyors, soldiers, preachers, and immigrants, some of them well known and some obscure, tell of the loneliness, terror, and beauty of the frontier.

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Diary of Caroline Seabury
Caroline Seabury
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991

In 1854 Caroline Seabury of Brooklyn, New York, set out for Columbus, Mississippi, to teach French at its Institute for Young Ladies.  She lived in Columbus until 1863, through the years of mounting sectional bitterness that preceded the Civil War and through the turmoil and hardships of the war itself.  During that time, her most intimate confidant was her diary.  Discovered in the archives of the Minnesota State Historical Society, it is published here for the first time.
    The diary is an illuminating account of southern plantation society and the “peculiar institution” of slavery on the eve of its destruction.  Seabury also records her uneasy attempts to come to terms with her position as an unmarried, white, Northern woman whose job was to educate wealthy, white, Southern girls in a setting seemingly oblivious to the horrors of slavery.  The diary is not simply a chronicle of daily happenings; Seabury concentrates on remarkable events and the memorable feelings and ideas they generate, shaping them into entries that reveal her as an accomplished writer.  She frames her narrative with her journey south in 1854 and the hazardous and exhausting return north through battle lines in 1863.
    Disapproving of slavery, yet deeply attached to friends and her life in Columbus and also painfully conscious of the fragility of her own economic and social position, Seabury condemned privately in her diary the evils that she endured silently in public.  There are striking scenes of plantation life that depict the brutalities of slavery and benumbed responses to them.  Seabury also successfully captures the mood of Mississippi as it changed from a fire-eating appetite to fight the Yankees to a grim apprehension of inexorable defeat.  Most impressive of all is Seabury’s poignantly honest presentation of herself, caught in the middle.


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Editors Make War
Donald E. Reynolds
Southern Illinois University Press, 2006
In early 1860 most Southern newspapers promoted Unionist sentiments for peace, but by 1861 they advocated secession and disunion, often calling for bloodshed. Using the editorials published in 196 newspapers during that pivotal year before the outbreak of the Civil War, Donald E. Reynolds shows the evolution of the editors’ viewpoints and explains how editors helped influence the traditionally conservative and nationalistic South to revolt and secede.
Editors Make War is the first complete study of how Southern newspapers influenced the secession crisis in 1860, effectively outlining how editors played on their readers’ racial fears and distrust of the North. Showing how newspaper coverage can affect its readers, this classic study illuminates such events as the nominating conventions, fires in Texas that were blamed on slaves and abolitionists, state elections in the North, Lincoln’s presidential victory, failed attempts at compromise, the secession of the lower Southern states, the attack at Fort Sumter, and the Federal call for troops in April 1861.

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Experiment in Republicanism
New Hampshire Politics and the American Revolution, 1741-1794
Jere R. Daniell
Harvard University Press, 1970

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The Federal Road Through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806–1836
Henry deLeon Southerland
University of Alabama Press, 1990

The Federal Road was a major influence in settlement of the Mississippi Territory during the period between the Louisiana Purchase and removal of the Creek Indians

Histories of early Alabama covering this period are replete with references to isolated incidents along the Federal Road but heretofore no documented history drawn from original sources has been published.
Authors Southerland and Brown have explored many scattered and often obscure sources in order to produce this fascinating, informative account of the impact of the Federal Road on the timing, shape, and settlement of the lower South. What started as a postal horsepath through a malaria-infested wilderness occupied by Indians was widened into a military road for use during the War of 1812 and became a primary thoroughfare for pioneers. The accessibility to Indian land provided by the road was a principal cause of the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814; moreover, it expedited the exodus of the Creek Indians and permitted English-speaking settlers to enter western Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. This history of the Federal Road, describing its birth of necessity to fulfill an essential need, its short and useful service life, and its demise, opens a new window onto our past and reveals a historical period that, although now almost faded into oblivion, still affects our daily lives. This illumination of the life of the Federal Road will help present-day inhabitants appreciate how we came to be where we are today.

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The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts
Amber D. Moulton
Harvard University Press, 2015

Well known as an abolitionist stronghold before the Civil War, Massachusetts had taken steps to eliminate slavery as early as the 1780s. Nevertheless, a powerful racial caste system still held sway, reinforced by a law prohibiting “amalgamation”—marriage between whites and blacks. The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts chronicles a grassroots movement to overturn the state’s ban on interracial unions. Assembling information from court and church records, family histories, and popular literature, Amber D. Moulton recreates an unlikely collaboration of reformers who sought to rectify what, in the eyes of the state’s antislavery constituency, appeared to be an indefensible injustice.

Initially, activists argued that the ban provided a legal foundation for white supremacy in Massachusetts. But laws that enforced racial hierarchy remained popular even in Northern states, and the movement gained little traction. To attract broader support, the reformers recalibrated their arguments along moral lines, insisting that the prohibition on interracial unions weakened the basis of all marriage, by encouraging promiscuity, prostitution, and illegitimacy. Through trial and error, reform leaders shaped an appeal that ultimately drew in Garrisonian abolitionists, equal rights activists, antislavery evangelicals, moral reformers, and Yankee legislators, all working to legalize interracial marriage.

This pre–Civil War effort to overturn Massachusetts’ antimiscegenation law was not a political aberration but a crucial chapter in the deep history of the African American struggle for equal rights, on a continuum with the civil rights movement over a century later.


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The Fires of New England
A Story of Protest and Rebellion in Antebellum America
Eric J. Morser
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017
In the winter of 1834, twenty men convened in Keene, New Hampshire, and published a fiery address condemning their state's legal system as an abomination that threatened the legacy of the American Revolution. They attacked New Hampshire's constitution as an archaic document that undermined democracy and created a system of conniving attorneys and judges. They argued that the time was right for their neighbors to rise up and return the Granite State to the glorious pathway blazed by the nation's founders.

Few people embraced the manifesto and its radical message. Nonetheless, as Eric J. Morser illustrates in this eloquently written and deeply researched book, the address matters because it reveals how commercial, cultural, political, and social changes were remaking the lives of the men who drafted and shared it in the 1830s. Using an imaginative range of sources, Morser artfully reconstructs their moving personal tales and locates them in a grander historical context. By doing so, he demonstrates that even seemingly small stories from antebellum America can help us understand the rich complexities of the era.

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General Thomas Posey
Son of the American Revolution
John Thornton Posey
Michigan State University Press, 1992

Revolutionary War general Thomas Posey (1750-1818) lived his life against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic periods in American history. Posey, who played a minor role in the actual War for Independence, went on to participate in the development and foundation of several states in the transappalachian West. His experiences on the late 18th- and early 19th-century American frontier were varied and in a certain sense extraordinary; he served as Indian agent in Illinois Territory; as Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, as U.S. Senator from Louisiana, and as Governor of Indiana during its transition from territorial status to statehood. 
     His biographer speculates on the contrasting influences of Thomas's ne'er-do-well father, Captain John Posey, and the family's close friend, General George Washington. Posey's progress is then followed as he raises his own family in the newly formed nation. Of particular interest is an appendix containing a detailed analysis of evidence available to support popular 29th-century speculation that Thomas Posey was, in fact, George Washington's illicit son.


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Guy Rivers
A Tale of Georgia
William G. Simms
University of Arkansas Press, 1993
The first of William Gilmore Simms's Border Romance series, this is a vividly accurate and entertaining account of two very different societies in frontier Georgia during the height of the gold-rush era.

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In the Shadow of Slavery
African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863
Leslie M. Harris
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A new edition of a classic work revealing the little-known history of African Americans in New York City before Emancipation.

The popular understanding of the history of slavery in America almost entirely ignores the institution’s extensive reach in the North. But the cities of the North were built by—and became the home of—tens of thousands of enslaved African Americans, many of whom would continue to live there as free people after Emancipation.

In the Shadow of Slavery reveals the history of African Americans in the nation’s largest metropolis, New York City. Leslie M. Harris draws on travel accounts, autobiographies, newspapers, literature, and organizational records to extend prior studies of racial discrimination. She traces the undeniable impact of African Americans on class distinctions, politics, and community formation by offering vivid portraits of the lives and aspirations of countless black New Yorkers. This new edition includes an afterword by the author addressing subsequent research and the ongoing arguments over how slavery and its legacy should be taught, memorialized, and acknowledged  by governments.

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In the Shadow of Slavery
African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863
Leslie M. Harris
University of Chicago Press, 2003
"The black experience in the antebellum South has been thoroughly documented. But histories set in the North are few. In the Shadow of Slavery, then, is a big and ambitious book, one in which insights about race and class in New York City abound. Leslie Harris has masterfully brought more than two centuries of African American history back to life in this illuminating new work."—David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

In 1991 in lower Manhattan, a team of construction workers made an astonishing discovery. Just two blocks from City Hall, under twenty feet of asphalt, concrete, and rubble, lay the remains of an eighteenth-century "Negro Burial Ground." Closed in 1790 and covered over by roads and buildings throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the site turned out to be the largest such find in North America, containing the remains of as many as 20,000 African Americans. The graves revealed to New Yorkers and the nation an aspect of American history long hidden: the vast number of enslaved blacks who labored to create our nation's largest city.

In the Shadow of Slavery lays bare this history of African Americans in New York City, starting with the arrival of the first slaves in 1626, moving through the turbulent years before emancipation in 1827, and culminating in one of the most terrifying displays of racism in U.S. history, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. Drawing on extensive travel accounts, autobiographies, newspapers, literature, and organizational records, Leslie M. Harris extends beyond prior studies of racial discrimination by tracing the undeniable impact of African Americans on class, politics, and community formation and by offering vivid portraits of the lives and aspirations of countless black New Yorkers.

Written with clarity and grace, In the Shadow of Slavery is an ambitious new work that will prove indispensable to historians of the African American experience, as well as anyone interested in the history of New York City.

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Indians in the Family
Adoption and the Politics of Antebellum Expansion
Dawn Peterson
Harvard University Press, 2017

During his invasion of Creek Indian territory in 1813, future U.S. president Andrew Jackson discovered a Creek infant orphaned by his troops. Moved by an “unusual sympathy,” Jackson sent the child to be adopted into his Tennessee plantation household. Through the stories of nearly a dozen white adopters, adopted Indian children, and their Native parents, Dawn Peterson opens a window onto the forgotten history of adoption in early nineteenth-century America. Indians in the Family shows the important role that adoption played in efforts to subdue Native peoples in the name of nation-building.

As the United States aggressively expanded into Indian territories between 1790 and 1830, government officials stressed the importance of assimilating Native peoples into what they styled the United States’ “national family.” White households who adopted Indians—especially slaveholding Southern planters influenced by leaders such as Jackson—saw themselves as part of this expansionist project. They hoped to inculcate in their young charges U.S. attitudes toward private property, patriarchal family, and racial hierarchy.

U.S. whites were not the only ones driving this process. Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw families sought to place their sons in white households, to be educated in the ways of U.S. governance and political economy. But there were unintended consequences for all concerned. As adults, these adopted Indians used their educations to thwart U.S. federal claims to their homelands, setting the stage for the political struggles that would culminate in the Indian Removal Act of 1830.


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Jacksonian Democracy in New Hampshire, 1800-1851
Donald B. Cole
Harvard University Press, 1970

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James Barbour, a Jeffersonian Repulican
Charles D. Lowery
University of Alabama Press, 1984

Barbour, a Virginia contemporary of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, during a long public career spanning the years 1798-1842, exerted a constructive influence on the nation’s history. Active in state and national politics during the formative decades of the republic, Barbour was a political nationalist who grafted to the dominant political philosophy of the day those elements of the Hamiltonian Federalist creed necessary for governing a dynamic, changing nation.

Barbour’s life affords a unique vantage point for viewing party politics in the South and the nation during the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian periods, for understanding Jeffersonian Republicanism, and for comprehending the difficulties a Southern agrarian had in embracing the economic and political realities at the dawn of the modern commercial age.


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Jersey Blue
Civil War Politics in New Jersey, 1854–1865
Gillette, William
Rutgers University Press, 1994
This political history of New Jersey during the Civil War and the years immediately before and after invites us to rethink New Jersey's role and in particular its relationship to the border states. William Gillette argues that there is little evidence supporting the idea that New Jersey's residents were pro-southern before the war, or even antiwar during it, although attitudes toward the abolition of slavery were more ambivalent. The perspectives Gillette offers in Jersey Blue, from the recruiting ground, the battlefield, and the home front, cast new light on New Jersey's wartime activities, state identity, and our understanding of the interrelationships between New Jersey's national, regional, and state developments.

Gillette takes a broader view of the politics of the Civil War as he touches on the economy, geography, demography, immigration, nativism, conscription, and law. The result is a pioneering history of New Jersey that deepens our understanding of the Civil War.

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Making Maine
Statehood and the War of 1812
Joshua M. Smith
University of Massachusetts Press, 2022

Honorable mention for U.S. Maritime History, John Lyman Book Awards

After the Revolutionary War ended, the new American nation grappled with a question about its identity: Were the states sovereign entities or subordinates to a powerful federal government? The War of 1812 brought this vexing issue into sharp relief, as a national government intent on waging an unpopular war confronted a populace in Massachusetts that was vigorously opposed to it. Maine, which at the time was part of Massachusetts, served as the battleground in this political struggle.

Joshua M. Smith recounts an innovative history of the war, focusing on how it specifically affected what was then called the District of Maine. Drawing on archival materials from the United States, Britain, and Canada, Smith exposes the bitter experience of Maine’s citizens during that conflict as they endured multiple hardships, including starvation, burdensome taxation, smuggling, treason, and enemy occupation. War’s inherent miseries, along with a changing relationship between regional and national identities, gave rise to a statehood movement that rejected a Boston-centric worldview in favor of a broadly American identity.


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The Militant South, 1800-1861
John Hope Franklin
University of Illinois Press, 2002
In The Militant South, 1800-1861, John Hope Franklin identifies the factors and causes of the South's festering propensity for aggression that contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.
Franklin asserts that the South was dominated by militant white men who resorted to violence in the face of social, personal, or political conflict. Fueled by their defense of slavery and a persistent desire to keep the North out of their affairs, Southerners adopted a vicious bellicosity that intensified as war drew nearer.
Drawing from Southern newspapers, government archives, memoirs, letters, and firsthand accounts, Franklin masterfully details the sources and consequences of antebellum aggression in the South.  First published in 1956, this classic volume is an enduring and impeccably researched contribution to Southern history. This paperback edition features a new preface in which the author discusses controversial responses to the book.

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The Northwest Ordinance
Essays on its Formulation, Provisions, and Legacy
Frederick D. Williams
Michigan State University Press, 1989

Adoption of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 ended a long and sometimes acrimonious debate over the question of how to organize and govern the western territories of the United States. Many eastern leaders viewed the Northwest Territory as a colonial possession, while freedom-loving settlers demanded local self- government. These essays address the ambiguities of the Ordinance, balance of power politics in North America, missionary activity in the territory, slavery, and higher education in the Old Northwest.


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Pathways to the Old Northwest
An Observance of the Bicentennial of the Northwest Ordinance
Lloyd A. Hunter, et al
Indiana Historical Society Press, 1988
In 1987 Franklin College of Indiana hosted an observance of the bicentennial of the Northwest Ordinance. Professional and amateur historians, folklorists, scholars in the arts, teachers, and students gathered to examine the provisions of that historic document and the governmental structure it created for the frontier lands north of the Ohio River. Pathways to the Old Northwest: An Observance of the Bicentennial of the Northwest Ordinance presents six of the lectures delivered at the conference. These lectures represent current knowledge about the early history of the Ohio River-Great Lakes area, the circumstances surrounding passage of the Ordinance, the beginnings of government and society, and the ethnic diversity of the region's people.

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The Pioneers
James Fenimore Cooper
Harvard University Press, 2011

With The Pioneers (1823), Cooper initiated his series of elegiac romances of frontier life and introduced the world to Natty Bumppo (or Leather-stocking). Set in 1793 in New York State, the novel depicts an aging Leather-stocking negotiating his way in a restlessly expanding society. In his introduction, Robert Daly argues for the novel’s increasing relevance: we live in a similarly complex society as Cooper’s frontier world, faced with the same questions about the limits of individualism, the need for voluntary cooperation, and stewardship of the environment.

The John Harvard Library edition reproduces the authoritative text of The Pioneers in the The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, published by the State University of New York Press.


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Politics Without Parties
Massachusetts, 1780–1791
Van Beck Hall
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972
In this book, Van Hall Beck demonstrates that prior to the development of American political parties in the 1790s, political conflicts reflected differences in the values of the entire society.  They were rooted in human circumstances-social, economic, cultural-of all sectors of society, and they displayed an ordered, patterned and persistent quality. To illustrate his assessment, Hall sifts through extensive archival data on 343 towns and plantations in Massachusetts. By comparing rural to urban settings, agricultural to market economies, and differing levels of political and social networking, he effectively ties voting patterns to human circumstances at the town level, and then relates these to the overall social and political order of the Commonwealth.

front cover of SECTIONALISM IN VIRGINIA FROM 1776 TO 1861
Charles H. Ambler with a new introduction by Barbara Rasmussen
West Virginia University Press, 2008

This 1910 study of sectionalism in Virginia illustrates how the east and west of Virginia were destined to separate into two states. Barbara Rasmussen, professor of Public History and Director of Cultural Resource Management at West Virginia University writes a new introduction to Sectionalism in Virginia, setting Ambler’s classic grand achievement into the context of its production by creating an historical process for studying West Virginia history.


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Slave Country
American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South
Adam Rothman
Harvard University Press, 2007

Slave Country tells the tragic story of the expansion of slavery in the new United States. In the wake of the American Revolution, slavery gradually disappeared from the northern states and the importation of captive Africans was prohibited. Yet, at the same time, the country's slave population grew, new plantation crops appeared, and several new slave states joined the Union. Adam Rothman explores how slavery flourished in a new nation dedicated to the principle of equality among free men, and reveals the enormous consequences of U.S. expansion into the region that became the Deep South.

Rothman maps the combination of transatlantic capitalism and American nationalism that provoked a massive forced migration of slaves into Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. He tells the fascinating story of collaboration and conflict among the diverse European, African, and indigenous peoples who inhabited the Deep South during the Jeffersonian era, and who turned the region into the most dynamic slave system of the Atlantic world. Paying close attention to dramatic episodes of resistance, rebellion, and war, Rothman exposes the terrible violence that haunted the Jeffersonian vision of republican expansion across the American continent.

Slave Country combines political, economic, military, and social history in an elegant narrative that illuminates the perilous relation between freedom and slavery in the early United States. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in an honest look at America's troubled past.


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Slavery Rice Culture
Low Country Georgia, 1750-1860
Julia Floyd Smith
University of Tennessee Press, 1992
This is the most thorough analysis of slavery on the Georgia coast that we likely ever have. Based on extensive examination of probate records and statistics, she fully integrates the roots of African slavery into the long history of slavery in Georgia.

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Southern Colonial Backcountry
Interdisciplinary Perspectives
David Colin Crass
University of Tennessee Press, 1998
This book brings a variety of fresh perspectives to bear on the diverse people and settlements of the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century southern backcountry. Reflecting the growth of interdisciplinary studies in addressing the backcountry, the volume specifically points to the use of history, archaeology, geography, and material culture studies in examining communities on the southern frontier. Through a series of case studies and overviews, the contributors use cross-disciplinary analysis to look at community formation and maintenance in the backcountry areas of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

These essays demonstrate how various combinations of research strategies, conceptual frameworks, and data can afford a new look at a geographical area and its settlement. The contributors offer views on the evolution of backcountry communities by addressing such topics as migration, kinship, public institutions, transportation and communications networks, land markets and real estate claims, and the role of agricultural development in the emergence of a regional economy. In their discussions of individuals in the backcountry, they also explore the multiracial and multiethnic character of southern frontier society.

Yielding new insights unlikely to emerge under a single disciplinary analysis, The Southern Colonial Backcountry  is a unique volume that highlights the need for interdisciplinary approaches to the backcountry while identifying common research problems in the field.

The Editors: David Colin Crass is the archaeological services unit manager at the Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Steven D. Smith is the head of the Cultural Resources Consulting Division of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Antrhopology.

Martha A. Zierden is curator of historical archaeology at The Charleston Museum.

Richard D. Brooks is the administrative manager of the Savannah River Archeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Antrhopology.

The Contributors: Monica L. Beck, Edward Cashin, Charles H. Faulkner, Elizabeth Arnett Fields, Warren R. Hofstra, David C. Hsiung, Kenneth E. Lewis, Donald W. Linebaugh, Turk McCleskey, Robert D. Mitchell, Michael J. Puglisi, Daniel B. Thorp.

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The Southern Debate over Slavery
Volume 1: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1778-1864
Edited by Loren Schweninger
University of Illinois Press, 2001
An incomparably rich source of period information, The Southern Debate over Slavery offers a representative sampling of the thousands of petitions about issues of race and slavery that southerners submitted to their state legislatures between the American Revolution and the Civil War.
These petitions, filed by slaveholders and nonslaveholders, slaves and free blacks, women and men, abolitionists and staunch defenders of slavery, constitute a uniquely important primary source. Petitioners were compelled to present the most accurate and fully documented case they could, since their claims would be subject to public scrutiny and legal verification. Unlike the many reminiscences and autobiographies of the period, these petitions record with great immediacy and minute detail the dynamics, common understandings, and legal restrictions and parameters that shaped southern society during this period.
Arranged chronologically, with their original spelling and idiosyncratic phraseology intact, these documents reveal the grim and brutal nature of human bondage, the fears of whites who lived among large concentrations of blacks, and the workings of the complicated legal system designed to control blacks. They tell about the yearning of bondspeople to gain their freedom, the attitudes of freed blacks who were forced to leave the South, and the efforts of African Americans to overcome harsh and restrictive laws. They also underscore the unique situation of free women of color and the reliance of manumitted (formally freed) blacks on their former owners for protection, travel passes, guardianship papers, and reference letters.
Astonishingly intimate and frank,The Southern Debate over Slavery illuminates how slavery penetrated nearly every aspect of southern life and how various groups of southerners responded to the difficulties they confronted as a result of living in a slave society.

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The Southern Debate over Slavery
Volume 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867
Edited by Loren Schweninger
University of Illinois Press, 2007

An incomparably rich source of period information, the second volume of The Southern Debate over Slavery offers a representative and extraordinary sampling of the thousands of petitions about issues of race and slavery that southerners submitted to county courts between the American Revolution and Civil War. These petitions, filed by slaveholders and nonslaveholders, slaves and free blacks, women and men, abolitionists and staunch defenders of slavery, constitute a uniquely important primary source. The collection records with great immediacy and minute detail the dynamics and legal restrictions that shaped southern society.


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Speculators And Slaves
Masters, Traders, And Slaves In The Old South
Michael Tadman
University of Wisconsin Press, 1996
In this groundbreaking work, Michael Tadman establishes that all levels of white society in the antebellum South were deeply involved in a massive interregional trade in slaves. Using countless previously untapped manuscript sources, he documents black resilience in the face of the pervasive indifference of slaveholders toward slaves and their families. This new paperback edition of Speculators and Slaves offers a substantial new Introduction that advances a major thesis of master-slave relationships. By exploring the gulf between the slaveholders’ self-image as benevolent paternalists and their actual behavior, Tadman critiques the theories of close accommodation and paternalistic hegemony that are currently influential.

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Stagecoach and Tavern Tales of the Old Northwest
Harry Ellsworth Cole. Edited by Louise Phelps Kellogg. Foreword by Patrick J. Brunet
Southern Illinois University Press, 1997

One journalist curious about life in the taverns along the stagecoach lines in Wisconsin and northern Illinois from the early 1800s until the 1880s was Harry Ellsworth Cole. While he could not sample strong ales at all of the taverns he wrote about, Cole did study newspaper accounts, wrote hundreds of letters to families of tavern owners, read widely in regional history, and traveled extensively throughout the territory. The result, according to Brunet, is a "nostalgic, sometimes romantic, well-written, and easily digested social history."

At Cole’s death, historian Louise Phelps Kellogg edited his manuscript, which in this case involved turning his notes and illustrations into a book and publishing it with the Arthur H. Clark Company in 1930.


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Stories of Freedom in Black New York
Shane White
Harvard University Press, 2002

Stories of Freedom in Black New York recreates the experience of black New Yorkers as they moved from slavery to freedom. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, New York City's black community strove to realize what freedom meant, to find a new sense of itself, and, in the process, created a vibrant urban culture. Through exhaustive research, Shane White imaginatively recovers the raucous world of the street, the elegance of the city's African American balls, and the grubbiness of the Police Office. It allows us to observe the style of black men and women, to watch their public behavior, and to hear the cries of black hawkers, the strident music of black parades, and the sly stories of black conmen.

Taking center stage in this story is the African Company, a black theater troupe that exemplified the new spirit of experimentation that accompanied slavery's demise. For a few short years in the 1820s, a group of black New Yorkers, many of them ex-slaves, challenged pervasive prejudice and performed plays, including Shakespearean productions, before mixed race audiences. Their audacity provoked feelings of excitement and hope among blacks, but often of disgust by many whites for whom the theater's existence epitomized the horrors of emancipation.

Stories of Freedom in Black New York brilliantly intertwines black theater and urban life into a powerful interpretation of what the end of slavery meant for blacks, whites, and New York City itself. White's story of the emergence of free black culture offers a unique understanding of emancipation's impact on everyday life, and on the many forms freedom can take.


front cover of Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia
Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia
Patricia Samford
University of Alabama Press, 2007
Investigates the development of hypotheses about how West African, possibly Igbo, cultural traditions were maintained and transformed in the Virginia Chesapeake

Enslaved Africans and their descendants comprised a significant portion of colonial Virginia populations, with most living on rural slave quarters adjacent to the agricultural fields in which they labored. Archaeological excavations into these home sites have provided unique windows into the daily lifeways and culture of these early inhabitants.
A common characteristic of Virginia slave quarters is the presence of subfloor pits beneath the houses. The most common explanations of the functions of these pits are as storage places for personal belongings or root vegetables, and some contextual and ethnohistoric data suggest they may have served as West Africa-style shrines. Through excavations of 103 subfloor pits dating from the 17th through mid-19th centuries, Samford reveals a wealth of data including shape, location, surface area, and depth, as well as contents and patterns of related feature placement. Archaeology reveals the material circumstances of slaves’ lives, which in turn opens the door to illuminating other aspects of life: spirituality, symbolic meanings assigned to material goods, social life, individual and group agency, and acts of resistance and accommodation. Analysis of the artifact assemblages allows the development of hypotheses about how West African, possibly Igbo, cultural traditions were maintained and transformed in the Virginia Chesapeake.

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Taming Manhattan
Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City
Catherine McNeur
Harvard University Press, 2014

George Perkins Marsh Prize, American Society for Environmental History
VSNY Book Award, New York Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America
Hornblower Award for a First Book, New York Society Library
James Broussard Best First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

With pigs roaming the streets and cows foraging in the Battery, antebellum Manhattan would have been unrecognizable to inhabitants of today’s sprawling metropolis. Fruits and vegetables came from small market gardens in the city, and manure piled high on streets and docks was gold to nearby farmers. But as Catherine McNeur reveals in this environmental history of Gotham, a battle to control the boundaries between city and country was already being waged, and the winners would take dramatic steps to outlaw New York’s wild side.

“[A] fine book which make[s] a real contribution to urban biography.”
—Joseph Rykwert, Times Literary Supplement

“Tells an odd story in lively prose…The city McNeur depicts in Taming Manhattan is the pestiferous obverse of the belle epoque city of Henry James and Edith Wharton that sits comfortably in many imaginations…[Taming Manhattan] is a smart book that engages in the old­ fashioned business of trying to harvest lessons for the present from the past.”
—Alexander Nazaryan, New York Times


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This Happy Land
The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston
James William Hagy
University of Alabama Press, 1993
This Happy Land charts the history of the Jewish community in Charleston, South Carolina, from the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in the 1690s until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Charleston was the preeminent city of the South for many decades, and its Jewish community was the largest in North America from about the time of the American Revolution until around 1820. American Reform Judaism, one of the three major divisions of the faith, first appeared in Charleston in 1824 when the Reformed Society of Israelites was established. What happened among the Jews in Charleston thus affected the development of Judaism throughout America. 
            The Jews who lived in the city from the 17th century to 1861 are identified in Hagy’s comprehensive volume, which includes information on their places of origin, marriages, children, and deaths. From Hagy’s exhaustive research into published and archival sources, patterns emerged that allowed him to draw conclusions about the life of the people in the city and to develop both a social and religious history. Hagy shows that the Jews who lived in Charleston quickly adapted to Southern ways of life, including dueling and the ownership of slaves and plantations. Jewish residents gained full economic and political rights long before other communities in the western world, which led to their full participation in the town’s public, financial, intellectual, and social life. The also lived where they chose, followed the professions they wanted, and generally participated in the affairs of the city. Most viewed America as this “happy land” and Charleston as their “New Jerusalem.”
            This book breaks new ground in the history of Jewish communities by providing such analyses as the origins of residents, the roles that women played in business, the causes of mortality, the antebellum Jewish family, the common aspects of life, and relations between Jews and African-Americans. It also provides a thorough analysis of the Reformed Society of Israelites that originated at Beth Elohim synagogue, and which became the first reform movement in America. The volume concludes with an appendix containing a list of all the known Jewish residents of Charleston for this period with selected biographical information.

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The Very Worst Road
Travellers' Accounts of Crossing Alabama's Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847
Jeffrey C. Benton
University of Alabama Press, 2009
The Very Worst Road contains sixteen contemporary accounts by travelers who reached Alabama along what was known as the “Old Federal Road,” more a network of paths than a single road, that ran from Columbus and points south in Georgia for more or less due west into central Alabama and to where the confluence of the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers forms the Alabama River.
These accounts deal candidly with the rather remarkable array of impediments that faced travelers in Alabama in its first decades as a state, and they describe with wonder, interest, and, frequently with some disgust, the road, the inns, the travelling companions, and the few and raw communities they encountered as they made their way, often with difficulty, through what seemed to many of them uncharted wilderness. The Very Worst Road was originally published by the Historic Chattahoochee Commission in 1998.

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