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Undoing Slavery

American Abolitionism in Transnational Perspective (1776-1865)

Michaël ROY
Marie-Jeanne ROSSIGNOL
Claire PARFAIT (eds.)
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  • Format : 15 x 21 cm
  • Nb pages : 168
  • Parution : 2018
  • ISBN 978-2-7288-2782-4

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Actes de la recherche à l’ENS-PSL n° 28


Détruire l’esclavage. Perspectives transnationales sur l’abolitionnisme américain (1776-1865)

est un recueil de sept essais rédigés par des spécialistes français de l’abolition de l’esclavage aux États-Unis.
Les auteurs placent l’abolitionnisme américain dans un contexte transnational et montrent comment des esclaves fuyant au Canada, des Noirs libres émigrant à Haïti et des activistes se retrouvant dans un salon parisien ont influencé, chacun à leur façon, le destin de l’esclavage aux États-Unis. Dans le prolongement de récentes tendances historiographiques, l’abolitionnisme y est abordé sur le temps long. Une attention particulière est également apportée à la culture imprimée abolitionniste - romans, journaux, livres-albums et almanachs antiesclavagistes, brochures et sermons rédigés par des activistes noirs.

L’ouvrage est préfacé par Manisha Sinha, auteure d’un livre remarqué sur l’abolitionnisme aux États-Unis, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition


Undoing Slavery: American Abolitionism in Transnational Perspective (1776-1865) is a collection of seven essays by leading and emerging scholars of abolition in France. Contributors to the volume situate American abolitionism in a transnational framework, pointing out how slaves running away to Canada, free African Americans emigrating to Haiti and activists meeting in a Paris salon all influenced the fate of slavery in the United States. In the wake of recent historiographical trends, they extend not only the geography but also the chronology of abolitionism, attending to its development and evolutions over the longue durée. Special emphasis is also placed on the varied print culture of abolition, from antislavery novels, newspapers, gift books and almanacs to black-authored pamphlets and printed orations on the abolition of the slave trade.

Undoing Slavery is prefaced by Manisha Sinha, author of the award-winning The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.


Manisha SINHA is Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests lie in United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016), which was awarded several prizes, including the 2017 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, jointly sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.

Michaël ROY is Associate Professor of American History at Université Paris Nanterre. His research investigates the publication, circulation, and reception of antebellum slave narratives and the history of American abolitionism more generally. He is the author of two books, Textes fugitifs. Le récit d’esclave au prisme de l’histoire du livre (ENS Éditions, 2017) and De l’antiesclavagisme à l’abolition de l’esclavage. États-Unis, 1776-1865 (Atlande, 2018). He has contributed essays to the Revue du Philanthrope, the Revue française d’études américaines, MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States and Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. He has also published a French translation of The Confessions of Nat Turner (Allia, 2017).

Marie-Jeanne ROSSIGNOL is Professor of American Studies at Université Paris Diderot. A specialist of the history of the early American republic, she is currently working on a history of antislavery in the United States. This project has led her to supervise and edit the first translation of Anthony Benezet’s Some Historical Account of Guinea with Bertrand van Ruymbeke (SFEDS, 2017). She has also co-edited a collection of essays on Benezet with Bertrand van Ruymbeke, The Atlantic World of Anthony Benezet (1713-1784): From French Reformation to North American Quaker Antislavery Activism (Brill, 2016). Together with Claire Parfait, she edits the “Récits d’esclaves” series at the Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre. She is currently finalizing the last two publications of the Sorbonne Paris Cité project entitled “Writing History from the Margins: The Case of African Americans” (2013-2016).

Claire PARFAIT is Professor of American Studies and Book History at Université Paris 13. She was the principal instigator of a Sorbonne Paris Cité project entitled “Writing History from the Margins: The Case of African Americans” (2013-2016). With Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry and Claire Bourhis-Mariotti she co-edited Writing History from the Margins: African Americans and the Quest for Freedom (Routledge, 2017). She is also the author of The Publishing History of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 1852-2002 (Ashgate, 2007). She is currently working on a monograph on African American historians from the 1830s to the 1930s, from the dual perspective of historiography and book history.

Yohanna AlLIMI-LEVY is a teaching fellow at Université Paris Dauphine. Her research focuses on the political and social history of the early American republic and more specifically on the Jacksonian era. She is interested in the circulation of ideas between France and the United States, the diplomatic history of both countries and the history of the press and transatlantic communications. Her PhD dissertation on the reception of the French revolutions of 1830 and 1848 in Jacksonian America will be published in 2018 by Presses de l’université Paris Sorbonne thanks to the support of the French Association for American Studies.

Claire BOURHIS-MARIOTTI is Associate Professor of American History at Université Paris 8. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century African American history and more specifically on the antebellum emigrationist and colonization movements and African Americans’ Haitian experience. Her PhD dissertation won the 2014 annual doctoral dissertation award given by the Institut des Amériques and was published as L’Union fait la force. Les Noirs américains et Haïti, 1804-1893 (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016). She has contributed essays on the emigration movement to Haiti to Couleurs, esclavages, libérations coloniales, 1804-1860 (Les Perséides, 2013), the Revue française d’études américaines, and IdeAs. Idées d’Amérique. With Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry and Claire Parfait she co-edited Writing History from the Margins: African Americans and the Quest for Freedom (Routledge, 2017).

Sandrine FERRÉ-RODE is Associate Professor of American and Canadian Studies at Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Her research interests include comparative approaches to the history of immigration, multiculturalism, minority writing and the history of the book in Canada and the United States. She co-edited Comment comparer le Canada avec les États-Unis aujourd’hui. Enjeux et pratiques with Hélène Quanquin and Christine Lorre-Johnston (Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2009). She also co-authored Panorama de l’histoire des Etats-Unis with Stéphanie Carrez (Studyrama, 2013). She has published several essays on the narratives of American fugitive slaves who fled to Canada during the age of emancipation and has recently completed a French translation and critical edition of Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave with Anne-Laure Tissut (forthcoming with Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre).

Hélène QUANQUIN is Associate Professor of American History at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Her research focuses on American feminisms and nineteenth-century reform movements. She has contributed essays to Interconnections: Gender and Race in American History (University of Rochester Press, 2012), the Revue française d’études américaines, and Wendell Phillips: Social Justice and the Power of the Past (Louisiana State University Press, 2016). She is completing a book on men active in the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement, for which she has earned fellowships from the Schlesinger Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Sophia Smith Collection, and the American Antiquarian Society. She was visiting professor at Brown University in 2008 and at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. 

Table of contents

Preface, by Manisha SINHA

Introduction, by  Michaël ROY, Marie-Jeanne ROSSIGNOL and Claire PARFAIT

The Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade and Its Afterlives in North American Abolitionist Print Culture, par Marie-Jeanne ROSSIGNOL

African American Emigrationists and the Voluntary Emigration Movement to Haiti, 1804-1862, par Claire BOURHIS-MARIOTTI

Competing Narratives: The Underground Railroad to Canada in Historiographical Perspective, par Sandrine FERRÉ-RODE

Fiction and the Debate over Slavery, par Claire PARFAIT

“Printers were almost afraid to set up the types”: Publishing and Circulating Antislavery Literature in Antebellum America, par Michaël ROY

“The spirit of the age is on our side”: 1848 and the Abolitionist Cause in France, the United States and Great Britain, par Yohanna ALIMI-LEVY

Abolition and Women’s Rights Before and After the Civil War: Continuities and Discontinuities, par Hélène QUANQUIN