cover image American Slavery, 1619-1877

American Slavery, 1619-1877

Peter Kolchin. Hill & Wang, $25 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8090-2568-8

In this readable synthesis of scholarship, University of Delaware history professor Kolchin takes a judicious view of historians' controversies surrounding this topic. Kolchin ( Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom ) offers a good narrative account of American slavery, but the book is most useful for his historiographical navigation. While some scholars have argued that slaves quickly abandoned African ways, and others maintain that slave culture was strongly African, Kolchin disputes this dichotomy, describing instead the development of a unique African American culture. Likewise, Kolchin sees the validity of studies that have focused on slaves as victims as well as more recent work emphasizing their resiliency. With perspective drawn from his research into the end of slavery in other countries, Kolchin stresses that Reconstruction, once seen by scholars as cruel to Southern whites and more recently as insufficiently revolutionary, was in fact ``an extraordinary departure'' that took control of the mechanics of emancipation away from the former masters. (Aug.)