Currently a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, James Oakes has been teaching and writing about slavery, antislavery, and the origins of the Civil War for nearly thirty years. Most recently, he is the author of The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2007) and Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865 (2012), winner of the Lincoln Prize.
It's well known that slaves resisted their bondage when and where they could, but that was always true. This essay raises a series of questions designed to specify when and how slave resistance contributed to the Civil War and abolition. How did slave autobiographies translate slave resistance into the abolitionist agenda? How did fugitive slaves contribute directly to the coming of the Civil War? How did the slaves' loyalty to the Union push federal antislavery policy toward universal emancipation? How did black troops contribute to the adoption of the thirteenth Amendment?