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A House Divided: Slavery and Emancipation in Delaware, 1638-1865 (Carter G. Woodson Institute Series) Hardcover – October 29, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Delaware stood outside the primary streams of New World emancipation. Despite slavery's virtual demise in that state during the antebellum years and Delaware's staunch Unionism during the Civil War itself, the state failed to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibits slavery, until 1901. Patience Essah takes the reader of A House Divided through the introduction, evolution, demise, and final abolition of slavery in Delaware. In unraveling the enigma of how and why tiny Delaware abstained from the abolition mandated in northern states after the American Revolution, resisted the movement toward abolition in border states during the Civil War, and stubbornly opposed ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, she offers fresh insight into the history of slavery, race, and racialism in America. The citizens of Delaware voluntarily freed over 90 percent of their slaves, yet they declined Lincoln's 1862 offer of compensation for emancipation, and the legislature persistently foiled all attempts to mandate emancipation. Those arguing against emancipation expressed fears that it inadvertently would alter the delicate balance of political power in the state. What Essah has found at the base of the Delaware paradox is a political discourse stalemated by instrumental appeals to racialism. In showing the persistence of slavery in Delaware, she raises questions about postslavery race relations. Her analysis is vital to an understanding of the African-American experience. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Patience Essah is Associate Professor of History at Auburn University.

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Product Details

  • Series: Carter G. Woodson Institute Series
  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press (October 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081391681X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813916811
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,079,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Patience Essah's book is a landmark work on a seldom-studied area of American history: the question of slavery in Delaware. While books on slavery in larger states abound, and books on slavery nation-wide are myriad, neither truly addresses this issue in the First State, Delaware. What makes the subject so important, and what Essah illustrates so well, is that slavery in Delaware is slavery at the margin. Just south of the Mason-Dixon line, Delaware seemed more often to be drawn to Philadelphia than Baltimore or Richmond. As a state torn between these two powerful poles of attraction, Delaware featured the liveliest debate over slavery of any state in the Union. The Quaker and Methodist influences coupled with soil depletion served to make the preservation of slavery in Delaware precarious, and the political climate surrounding the peculiar institution, galvanic. Essah adequately portrays the struggle for emancipation in Delaware and gets to the heart of the anti-slavery struggle. The only criticism one could make is that she does not address the organization and methods of the pro-slavery forces as well as she does for the anti-slavery groups. A closer look at that side of the issue would lend greater understanding to the epic struggle between the forces of slavery and freedom in Delaware. All in all, a good book, and the best one available on the subject.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Delaware often gets left out of the history books due to its small size and population, and being in the shadows of its more historically rich neighbors. Even in the historiography of slavery, Delaware gets left out-- a "Southern" state in terms of geography and slave status, but just barely.

Essah conveys an informative, insightful sense of the slavery issue in Delaware and just how tenuous yet tenacious it was there. This happened because, as Essah ably displays, white supremacy was a constant thread in the state's history, well past the year of official emancipation. Essah delves into the persistence of slavery, the role played by free blacks, and the role that white supremacy played in keeping slavery and disfranchisement alive well past the end of the Civil War.

The book is a quick and delightful read, with plenty of charts.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is well written but focuses mainly on slavery in Delaware during the 19th century. The early story of slavery in Delaware needs further development
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