A collective effort to present a new kind of moral history, this volume seeks to show how the study of the past can illuminate profound ethical and philosophical issues. More specifically, it addresses a variety of questions raised by the history of American slavery. How did freedom become one of the most cherished values in the Western world? How has the language of slavery been applied to other instances of exploitation? To what extent is America's high homicide rate a legacy of slavery? Did the abolitionist movement's tendency to view slavery as a product of sin, rather than as a structural and economic problem, accelerate or impede emancipation?
Divided into four parts, the essays provide succinct guides to the evolution of American slavery, the origins of antislavery thought, the challenges of emancipation, and the legacy of slavery. They also offer fresh perspectives on key individuals and shed new light on the differences between female and male critiques of slavery, the defense of slavery by the South's intellectual elite, and Catholic attitudes. Above all, this book helps us understand the circumstances that allow social evils to happen, how intelligent and ostensibly moral people can participate in the most horrendous crimes, and how some individuals are able to rise above their circumstances and expand our moral consciousness.
* Association of American University Presses Award (2008)