Slave Resistance and the Making of Abolition


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

Based on the book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016), this talk argues that slave resistance rather than bourgeois liberalism lay at the heart of the abolition of slavery. Abolition was defined in large part by the fugitive slaves and slave rebels who inspired abolitionists. Antislavery politicians and lawyers took up the slave's cause and made human rights a defining aspect of American democracy.


Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in Early American History at the University of Connecticut. She was born in India and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University, where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty, and received the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in Recognition of Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Advising from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina (University of North Carolina Press, 2000), was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015.

Sinha’s research interests lie in early United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is a member of the council of advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center, New York Public Library; co-editor of the Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900 series of the University of Georgia Press; and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era. She has written for the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Time Magazine, and the Huffington Post and been interviewed by the Times of London and the Boston Globe. She was an adviser and on-screen expert for the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary The Abolitionists (2013), which is a part of the NEH-funded Created Equal film series. Sinha was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society in 2006.