Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and the CUNY Graduate Center, contrasts the popular memory of the Revolutionary War with its more complicated realities. She argues that although many of us were taught in school that American support for the Revolution was passionate and unified, it would be better for students to learn that America has always been diverse and that colonists had their own strong political divisions.
Historian James Oakes (The Graduate Center, City University of New York) addresses the timeless question of agency in emancipation—who freed the slaves?—by suggesting that the query demands greater nuance. The agency of slaves and the power of policy, he argues, depended on one another.
Duke University historian Laurent Dubois discusses slavery, culture, and ideology in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which upon the triumph of its revolution in 1804 became the nation of Haiti—the first and only nation established through a slave rebellion. He explores the widely divergent notions of freedom that developed in Haiti and the United States, and compares their deeply distinct declarations of independence—the first two such documents in world history.
New York University historian John Shovlin discusses the question of American influences on the French Revolution. Finding the American role “quite modest,” he describes the powerful forces at work within France that led to revolution in 1789.
West Virginia University historian Aaron Sheehan-Dean offers thoughts on the Library of America series The Civil War Told by Those Who Lived It, at Gilder Lehrman webinar on the Civil War 150 traveling exhibition. The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Library of America, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.