Writing Uncompensated Emancipation into the Lost Cause
Author: Amanda Kleintop, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Comment: Nina Silber, Boston University
Tuesday 27 October
After the US Civil War, white southerners claimed federal reimbursements for the value of freed slaves. Federal lawmakers rejected these claims in the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet, historians have long concluded that white southerners accepted uncompensated emancipation. Why did Americans forget these claims? This paper argues that white southerners abandoned them in the 1880s-1890s and rewrote history. They insisted that property in humans was “unprofitable,” and they did not need compensation after Confederate defeat. This narrative helped them reestablish political power and absolve themselves of four years of bloodshed and generations of enslavement.
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