2016 National Book Award Longlist, Nonfiction

Manisha Sinha

The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition Manisha Sinha
The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition
(Yale University Press)
ISBN: 978-0300181371

National Book Foundation: Who did you write this book for?
Manisha Sinha: This might sound hokey but I wrote the book for the average American citizen. While I was eager to overturn the dominant portrayal of abolitionists as middle class, northern, and white, and did extensive research detailed in footnotes for specialists, I wrote the book in a narrative style that would be accessible to a broader lay audience. I wanted readers to know about the radical, interracial, and transnational nature of abolition and how it spawned and overlapped with contemporary social movements like women’s rights, utopian socialism, and pacifism, to name a few. We know a lot about the contributions of the founders and prominent politicians to United States history but little about the ordinary men and women, black and white, free and enslaved, who comprised the abolition movement. The book is aimed at a large reading public so that we may finally appreciate the unsung heroes of American democracy.


A groundbreaking history of abolition that recovers the largely forgotten role of African Americans in the long march toward emancipation from the American Revolution through the Civil War

Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly white reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, black and white, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor. Drawing on extensive archival research, including newly discovered letters and pamphlets, Sinha documents the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the centrality of slave resistance in shaping the ideology and tactics of abolition. This book is a comprehensive new history of the abolition movement in a transnational context. It illustrates how the abolitionist vision ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe.

About the Author

Manisha Sinha is Professor and Graduate Program Director of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was born in India and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft Prize. Her first book The Counterrevolution of Slavery was named one of the ten best books on slavery by Politico in 2015. She has written for The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and The Huffington Post. She appeared on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show in 2014. 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.


- TWITTER: @ProfMSinha


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