You’ve heard me speak and bring guests who are experts in the history of abolition and slavery, particularly in England. I learned about well-known abolitionists like Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce. Manisha Sinha, today’s guest, goes into more depth and nuance to movements in North America and beyond.
She is the Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a leading authority on the history of slavery and abolition and the Civil War and Reconstruction. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. I met her then as a student, around 1989 or 90.
She wrote The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina, which was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015 and recently featured in The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Her multiple award winning second book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition brought me back to her. It won many awards, as did she.
Among the many new perspectives I picked up from her are the initiative and importance of the enslaved. I’m mostly focusing on helping us who like flying, air conditioning at the slightest warmth or humidity, and such without concern for people half of whose countries will be submerged or the nearly ten million who die just breathing air poisoned by factories making our stuff—helping us to see that acting in stewardship not only isn’t futile, but is deeply personally rewarding and effective.
I see from her the importance of connecting with people helping themselves elsewhere. How can we get their message and their experience to us, the users of polluting technology, shareholders in those companies, buyers of the products?
How can we help us see today that future historians will see us as we saw the people the abolitionists opposed?
How can we help us see the parallels and follow their footsteps?
If comparing environmental stewardship with abolition seems a stretch, listen to Manisha.