Ohio History Journal

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Slavery and Antislavery:

Slavery and Antislavery:

Subjects in Search of Authors


By Louis FILLER*




IT IS POSSIBLE that a revaluation of slavery and anti-

slavery--and, more especially, of the relationship between

antislavery and abolition--has been in order, perhaps overdue.

The literature about these last two related fields is, of course,

enormous, but whether the residue of them which the his-

torical profession carries about with it, and can bring to

bear upon them, suffices to maintain our understanding of

them, is debatable. One is reminded of an historian, the

author of a standard monograph in the field, who had occasion

to comment upon it, in private correspondence. "Strange, is

it not," he wrote, "that there should have been so much ex-

citement about slavery in the 1830's and how quiet things

became by the 1850's." (Italics added.)  In view of the un-

doubted excellence of this historian's thesis, one can only

comment that a more comprehensive professional awareness

on his part of factors involved in the problem of slavery and

antislavery would have protected him from such a perspective

on pre-Civil War America.

In the course of many years work with elements of slavery

and antislavery, and contact with persons who have written

about them, one runs across most permutations of attitude


* Louis Filler is professor of American civilization at Antioch College. These

are his introductory remarks at a session on "Slavery and Abolition," of which

he was chairman, at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in

Chicago, December 28-30, 1959.