The Antislavery Bulwark: The Antislavery Origins of the Civil War

This was a conference held in New York City at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York back in October, 2014.

Here’s the conference introduction and keynote address.  The keynote speaker is Professor David Blight, introduced by Professor James Oakes.  These are two historians for whom I have a great deal of respect.  Professor Blight’s address is, in a word, brilliant.

Session One’s description reads: “John Stauffer of Harvard University introduces day two of the conference, followed by Session One: Antislavery in the Revolutionary and Early National Periods. Participants include: Christopher Brown, Columbia University (presiding); John Blanton, CUNY Graduate Center; Sarah Levine-Gronningsater, McNeil Center for Early American Studies/California Institute of Technology; and David Gary, Yale University. The discussion took place on October 18, 2014, in Elebash Recital Hall.”

You can view it here:

David Gary needs to slow down a bit.  He tried to rapidly go through his paper and this resulted in his misspeaking several times during the presentation.

Session Two’s description reads: “Abolitionism and Antislavery Politics in the Antebellum Era. Participants include Amy Dru Stanley, Princeton University Center for Human Values/University of Chicago; Corey Brooks, York College of Pennsylvania; Joe Murphy, the Graduate Center; and Caleb McDaniel, Rice University. The discussion took place on October 18, 2014, in Elebash Recital Hall.”

I thought this session was better than the first session in terms of presentation.  Both had great information.

Session Three’s description reads: “Political Crisis of the 1850s. Participants include David Waldstreicher, the Graduate Center (presiding); Matthew Pinsker, Dickinson College; Manisha Sinha, University of Massachusetts Amherst; and James Oakes, CUNY Graduate Center. The discussion took place on October 18, 2014, in Elebash Recital Hall.”

This was really an outstanding session.

Session Four’s description reads: “Panel Discussion: Implications. Participants include Catherine Clinton, University of Texas San Antonio (moderator); Eric Foner, Columbia University; James Brewer Stewart, Macalester College; and Sean Wilentz, Princeton University. The discussion took place on October 18, 2014, in Elebash Recital Hall.”

This was another great discussion.

What a fantastic conference!  This was a great gathering of outstanding scholars, both established and up-and-coming.  It’s the latest scholarship on the role of slavery in bringing on the Civil War, and I especially enjoyed the last two sessions.  Pay special attention around the 1 hour, 26 minute point to the answer given to a high school student’s question in Session Four.



  1. Glad you posted this Al. It was really an interesting conference. A few things I like about attending:
    1. Eric Foner sat right behind me with Catherine Clinton so I got to hear their reactions after each panel.
    2, Half of the presenters were young, in their 20s and early 30s. I got to listen to people who will be writing their best stuff when I am retired and have time to read.
    3. David Blight is a performance artist.
    4. The heavy hitters, including Blight, Clinton, Foner, James Oakes and Sean Wilentz were all paying great attention to the younger presenters.
    5. Eric Foner does a unique mix of academic discussion and stand up comedy.

    1. So tell us about Foner’s and Clinton’s reactions, Pat. Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

      1. jfepperson · · Reply

        “unique mix of academic discussion and stand up comedy”—I tried to approach my calculus lectures in that fashion …

        1. Unfortunately, there’s very little about calculus that’s funny. In my experience it was mostly pain. 🙂

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