header by Emerson Taymor, 2005

1. The Colonial Era: 1607-1763

2. The Revolutionary Era: 1763-1789

3. The Early National Period: 1789-1824

4. Jacksonian America: 1824-1848

5. Antebellum America: 1848-1860

6. The Civil War Era: 1861-1877

7. The Gilded Age: 1877-1901

8. Progressivism: 1901-1920

9. The Twenties

10. Depression and New Deal: 1929-1939

11. World War II: 1939-1945

12. Early Cold War: 1945-1963

13. Social Ferment: 1945-1960

14. The Sixties

15. The Seventies and After




The Antebellum Era: 1848-1860


Seymour Drescher, "The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Holocaust: A Comparative Analysis" (1996)

Ron Takaki, "'No More Peck O' Corn': Slavery and Its Discontents," from A Different Mirror

Edmund Morgan, "Plantation Blues," from The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America (2004): on John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (2000) and Orlando Patterson, Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries (1999)

David Greenberg, "Sambo Returns" (on slaves and happiness) (Slate, 1998)

historian Edward Baptist on slavery and American economic growth, from The Half Has Never Been Told (2014); "A Brutal Process": review of The Half Has Never Been Told by Eric Foner (2014); Felicia R. Lee, "Harvesting Cotton-Field Capitalism: Edward Baptist's New Book Follows the Money on Slavery" (2014); The Economist withdraws and apologizes for its review of Baptist's book, "Blood Cotton," which complained that it made "almost all" whites villains (2014)


Southern cultural and economic data, pre-Civil War; California's history of slavery and the push for reparations the demographics of slave and free states, 1820-1850

sortable survey data on the spread of slavery

table of slave production at Pleasant Hill plantation, South Carolina (1850)

from Daina Ramey Berry, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (2017): on women and pregnancy; on the experiences of children; the experiences of adolescents; on women and their attempts to control their health; on the elderly; epilogue: the afterlives of slavery

from Calvin Schermerhorn, Unrequited Toil (2016): the daily experience of slavery; the financial structure underpinning slavery; the geopolitics of slavery in the antebellum period

Sam Knight, "Britain's Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History," New Yorker (Aug. 2021)


John C. Calhoun, "Slavery a Positive Good" (1837)

New York Plaindealer, "The Blessings of Slavery": editorial responding to Calhoun (1837)

rules of Highland Plantation (Florida, 1838), from Plantation Life in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana, 1836 - 1846

George Fitzhugh, "Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society" (1854)

Thornton Stringfellow, "Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery" (1856); Joel Baden on scripture and slavery

Harrison Berry, "Slavery and Abolitionism as Viewed by a Georgia Slave" (1861)


David Walker's Appeal (1829)

the martyrdom of Elijah Lovejoy, 1837

letter from fugitive Joseph Taper (1840)

Merrihew and Thompson, The Anti-Slavery Alphabet (1846)

William Wells Brown describes the appeal of Canada for runaway slaves (1847); Darryl Pinckney on Henry Box Brown (2003)

Frederick Douglass, "The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro" (1852); John Quinney (Mahican), 4th of July address (1854)

Andrew Chamings, "The Ghost Who Haunts the Smallest Park in San Francisco Changed America," SF Chronicle (Oct. 2020)--on the abolitionist work of Mary Ellen Pleasant; Frederick Douglass, "What the Black Man Wants" (1865)


Fugitive Slave Act (1850)

Salmon Chase, Defining the Constitutional Limits of Slavery (1850)

John C. Calhoun, Discourse on the Constitution (1850)

Calhoun's disquisition on government (1851)

Massachusetts Personal Liberty Act (1855)

Dred Scott's suit for his freedom (1846-1857); excerpts from Roger Taney's decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857); Eliza and Lizzie Scott, Dred Scott's daughters, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (1857); Walter Johnson, "No Rights Which the White Man is Bound to Respect," Boston Review (2017)--about how Dred Scott continues to resonate today; Martha Jones, "What Dred Scott Has to Teach Us About Bad Law," Washington Post (July 2018)--about the resistance to the Dred Scott decision

court cases in Alabama involving the rights of slaves, 1848-1861



Liberty Party, 1844

Democrats, 1848; Free-Soil, 1848; Whigs, 1848; historian Michael Holt, from The Fate of Their Country (2004) on the Free Soil party

Was Zachary Taylor assassinated to make sure the Compromise of 1850 passed? Probably not. Read why; Holt, from The Fate of Their Country, on the Compromise of 1850; Manisha Sinha on violent resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law, from The Slave's Cause

Whigs, 1852; Democrats, 1852; Holt, from The Fate of Their Country, on the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Holt on the breakup of the Whigs

Republicans, 1856; American ("Know-Nothing") Party, 1856; Democrats, 1856; Holt, from The Fate of Their Country, on the Know-Nothings; Lorraine Boissoneault, "How the Know-Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics," Smithsonian (Jan. 2017)

Images of the tickets in the election of 1860; Republican party platform, 1860; Democratic party platform, 1860; Constitutional Union party platform, 1860; Breckinridge Democrats, 1860

from Joanne B. Freeman, The Field of Blood (2018), on violence in party politics in the pre-Civil War era: the political culture of Republicanism; fights over the Lecompton constitution; understanding the caning of Sumner in cultural context

Abraham Lincoln, fragment on slavery (1854); Holt, from The Fate of Their Country, on why Lincoln would not compromise on slavery

William Freehling, from The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861, on the Lecompton Constitution

Charles Sumner's attack on the South and defenses of his beating; Freehling describes what happened to Sumner on the floor of the Senate; the texts and newspaper coverage of the Lincoln-Douglas debates

excerpts from JH Hammond's "King Cotton" speech (1858), defending the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution and extolling the power cotton gives the South

Ron Soodalter, "William Walker, king of the 19th-century filibusters," (HistoryNet, 2010)


map of Underground Railroad routes

maps of compromises

blank map of the US in 1860

map of slavery in 1860


reactions to John Brown; two reviews of David Reynolds' book on John Brown: Adam Gopnik, "John Brown's Body" (New Yorker, 2004); Sean Wilentz, "Homegrown Terrorist" (New Republic online, 2005)

Tony Horwitz, "The 9/11 of 1859": John Brown and 9/11 (New Yorker, 2009); David Reynolds, "Freedom's Martyr": why John Brown should be pardoned (New York Times, 2009)

debating secession: arguments for and against, 1776-1861