Abolition and Antislavery: A Historical Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic. Edited by Peter Hinks and John McKivigan. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015. 447 p. Acid-free $100 (ISBN 978-1-61069-827-6). Ebook available (978-1-61069-828-3) call for pricing.

This encyclopedia covers the rise and proliferation of abolitionist movements in the United States and the subsequent consequences of the emancipation of the former slaves. While outside international influences on American slavery existed—particularly Great Britain—the focus here is on both the Northern and Southern United States. Of course, banishing slavery did not lead to immediate social equality, and in fact many abolitionists did not ever desire this type of equality. This work also traces the subsequent controversial issues that emerged following abolition, such as new forms of labor exploitation, the right to own land and to vote, and the use of violence and intimidation to keep African Americans in inferior social and economic positions.

The books is organized alphabetically with entries ranging from one to ten pages. Most are around a page and a half, and they are succinctly and precisely written. Each entry is followed by “see also” references and a list of further readings. A selected bibliography of the most important works on abolition and emancipation appears at the end of the volume. Starting off the work are a brief introduction providing context and a detailed ten-page chronology. This chronology is quite comprehensive, beginning in 1441 with the first kidnapping of Africans by Portuguese sailors and ending in 1881 with the publication of Frederick Douglass’ third autobiography. The volume ends with forty pages of excerpts from seminal primary resources, from slave narratives, to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the Thirteenth Amendment. Though interesting, the full-text of nearly all of these included primary resources can be easily found on the web.

Is this encyclopedia anything new or unique? There are a number of reference resources and encyclopedias devoted to slavery in the United States. There are fewer focusing specifically on abolition and emancipation. In fact, the main reference works on abolition over the past ten years are the Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World, edited by Junius Rodriguez (Routledge 2007), and an earlier edition of this same Abolition and Antislavery. Interestingly, there is no mention in this edition of the earlier, two-volume set of Abolition and Antislavery, by the same authors, and also published by Greenwood. Half the length of the previous volume, and with half the number of entries, this new edition has to be seen as a condensed version. The intention, although not stated anywhere, seems to be to have a “quick and dirty” version of the earlier resource. In any case, it is fair to say that Routledge’s Encyclopedia of Emancipation is a more comprehensive resource. With close to 1,400 pages over three volumes, this larger work trumps Abolition and Antislavery in nearly every way. The only advantage Abolition and Antislavery has over the larger Encyclopedia of Emancipation is that this newer, briefer work may be more appropriate for high school and public libraries. Its overall coverage is broad if not deep, ranging from escaped slaves and violent insurrections to landmark legislation, to influential national movements and organizations. It is certainly only a starting point for research in this area, but not a bad one at that.—Mike Tosko, Subject Librarian, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio


  • There are currently no refbacks.

© 2017 RUSA