On Friday November 2, our host Jonathan Zarov spoke with Stephen Kantrowitz, who will be presenting on the panel, Freedom Stories: African Americans and the Civil War in the upcoming Wisconsin Book Festival. Stephen is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889. The book is about African Americans in the North, he explains, “there were about a quarter of a million free black northerners, about the same amount of free black northerners as there were free black southerners, and although their population is small compared to almost four million southern slaves, their importance is outsized much larger than their numbers would suggest…partly because some of them were fugitives and represented threats to the slave system, and partly because the place where free black people sit is in this intrinsically uneasy relationship to the American Republic. They’re free, but not white, and the Republic is white, and more and more from the 1830s on towards the Civil War. The amazing thing about these people is how they leverage that position of uncertainty into political power.” Stephen explains that the free black northerners had a huge impact on the North’s position of abolishing slavery in the South. He also explains how black northerners built huge networks, via newspapers, travelers, and free masons to “link together the forces of freedom.”
Stephen will be presenting on a panel along with David Cecelski, whose book speaks about the life of a young slave rebel. David’s book, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War, “represents the other social movement of the era, the social movement of the slaves themselves.” Stephen explains that it was the combined movement led by both the black southerners and the black northerners, together, that turned the Civil War into a war of emancipation.
Thursday Nov 8 at 7:30 PM
Wisconsin Studio at the Overture Center
Visit wisconsinbookfestival.org for more information.
Listen to the entire interview here: