Programs & Events

Slavery and Abolition, July 8–14, 2018


Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut


This seminar will explore the long movement to abolish slavery from the American Revolution to the Civil War. It will examine the entrenched nature of racial slavery in the nation’s political economy and what the abolitionists were up against in the slaveholding American republic. We will examine the relationship between slavery and the rise of early capitalism and slaveholders’ political dominance in the early republic. We will then look at how a radical social movement like abolition managed to break the national political silence over slavery and eventually put emancipation on the nation’s political agenda.

The seminar will also look at how slave resistance, especially the fugitive slave issue, shaped the abolition movement. We will explore abolition in a transnational context, showing how it overlapped with contemporary movements such as women’s rights, pacifism, utopian socialism, land reform, and the fight for labor, immigrant, and Native American rights. We will discuss the politics of abolition and the emergence of political antislavery or the ways in which radical abolitionist activists lay the groundwork for the emergence of free soilism, the Republican Party, and Lincoln. Finally, we will discuss the legacy of the movement to abolish slavery in laying the foundations of black citizenship and an interracial American democracy.

Travel & Accommodations

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements; the Institute will reimburse up to $400 in travel expenses. Read the policy here.

There are several options for traveling to and from Columbia University. LaGuardia Airport is the closest to the campus; a taxicab ride is about $30.00 (including a 15% tip), and the M60 city bus goes directly from LaGuardia to the campus every half hour for $2.75 (change only). For visitors arriving at any area airport (including Newark International Airport), shuttle bus service is available to the Port Authority Bus Terminal or to Grand Central Terminal. The Columbia University website also provides detailed driving directions. As parking is not available on campus, participants who drive will need to park in public parking lots.

Workshop participants will be housed in an on-campus dormitory. Participants will have private rooms, but will share bathroom facilities. Every floor has a lounge and a full kitchen. The university provides bedding and towels only. Participants should plan to bring fans, alarm clocks, shampoo, hangers, irons, hair dryers, etc. There are telephones in each room, but they require a calling card to make outside calls.

Every room is equipped with an Internet connection, but cables are not provided. Participants should bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.


Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.


Please be sure to review the Institute's policies on independent school teacher participation and travel reimbursement before applying.


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

Seminar Year: 2017-2018