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Civil War Historian Considers the Legal Road to Emancipation in Humanities Lecture Series Event

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

LAWRENCE — James Oakes, author of "Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865," will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9, in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. His presentation, "Rethinking Emancipation: Freedom National,” is part of the Hall Center for the Humanities' 2014-2015 Humanities Lecture Series, and is moderated by Jennifer Weber, history. The event is free and open to the public.

Oakes will also participate in an informal session the next morning. “A Conversation with James Oakes” will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, April 10, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Audience members are invited to pose questions to Oakes and advance topics that may not have been touched upon in the previous night’s session. This event is also free and open to the public.

James Oakes is a history professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. "Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865" (2012), is a powerful history of emancipation that reshapes our understanding of Lincoln, the Civil War and the end of American slavery.

"Freedom National" is a groundbreaking history that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery.

The book received the prestigious Lincoln Prize, awarded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era. Historian Eric Foner calls Freedom National "the best account ever written of the complex historical process known as emancipation."

Oakes’ most recent publication, "The Scorpion’s Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War" (2014), illuminates the strategy for ending slavery that precipitated the crisis of civil war.

The Organization of American Historians promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and it encourages wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of all practitioners of history.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin, and Sarah Vowell. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule. For information on the series, visit the Hall Center website.

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