What caused the American Civil War? Americans still debate this question, though the vast majority of professional historians agree that ultimately the institution of slavery was the central and primary cause. However, even historians often neglect to ask an equally important question: Who caused the Civil War? We will answer this question in part by considering how some of the most powerless people in the antebellum United States–Black women, men and children seeking to escape slavery–helped cause a bitter, bloody war that eventually led to emancipation for all African Americans. Though we may be familiar with some of the exciting stories of the underground railroad, we rarely hear why those stories are important in the story of America. This talk puts the decisions for individual freedom in a larger context of what, for Black Americans, was a war for freedom.
About the presenter: Scott Hancock is an associate professor of history and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College. He has published articles in various anthologies exploring the consequences of black agency as they used the courts and the legal system in the north and examining how escaping slaves and the underground railroad were one of the primary forces that pushed the nation toward civil war and emancipation. He is currently exploring how places like the Gettysburg battlefield can put African Americans and slavery back into the heart of the story told by national park landscapes and memorials.
60 minutes. Registration required.