OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Peter Kolchin

Portrait of Peter Kolchin

Peter Kolchin, professor emeritus of history at the University of Delaware, is the author of First Freedom: The Responses of Alabama's Blacks to Emancipation and Reconstruction (1972); Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (1987); American Slavery, 1619-1877 (1993); and A Sphinx on the American Land: The Nineteenth-Century South in Comparative Perspective (2003). Winner of the Bancroft Prize, the OAH Avery O. Craven Award, and the Southern Historical Association's Charles Sydnor Award, he is currently completing a comparative study of emancipation and its aftermath in Russia and the American South, a sequel to Unfree Labor. In 2014, he served as the president of the Southern Historical Association.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

In this lecture, Kolchin focuses on the emancipation of slaves in the southern United States, in broad comparative context. Because this emancipation came through Civil War, it produced changes that were in several ways unusually radical, even as these changes were partially undone by a racist reaction that was also unusually virulent.
In this talk, Kolchin offers a broad overview of two major versions of emancipation from bondage, both of which occurred in the 1860s: the freeing of serfs in Russia and of slaves in the southern United States.
In this talk, Kolchin focuses on the emancipation of Russia's serfs in broad comparative context, considering what this emancipation can teach historians of American slavery and emancipation.