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Critical Reflections in Black History: From Fugitive Slave Law to the Great Uprising in Urban America

How did fugitive slaves impact the politics of the critical decade leading up to the Civil War? What can we learn from the race riots during the Civil Rights Movement in Urban America? And how do both critical moments in African American History shape our society today?

In conjunction with Cambridge University Press, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore is pleased to welcome renowned scholars Richard Blackett and Peter Levy to Harrisburg. Blackett and Levy will present their new books, followed by a moderated discussion with Elizabethtown College Professor Michael Long.

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In The Captives Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery, one of the field's most distinguished historians, Richard Blackett, explores the impact fugitive slaves had on the politics of the critical decade leading up to the Civil War. Through the close reading of diverse sources ranging from government documents to personal accounts, Blackett traces the decisions of slaves to escape, the actions of those who assisted them, the many ways black communities responded to the capture of fugitive slaves, and how local laws either buttressed or undermined enforcement of the federal law.

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In The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s, Peter Levy examines the over 750 urban revolts over the arc of the entire decade from 1963 to 1972 in York, Cambridge, and Baltimore. He challenges both conservative and liberal interpretations, emphasizing that these riots must be placed within historical context to be properly understood. Levy presents a cautionary tale by challenging us to consider if the conditions that produced this 'Great Uprising' are still predominant in American culture today.

About the Authors: 

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Richard J. M. Blackett is the Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is past President of the Association of Caribbean Historians, Associated Editor and Acting Editor of the Journal of American History, and editor of the Indiana Magazine of History. He is the author of several books, including Building an Antislavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830-1860 (2002), Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War (2000), and Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery (2013).

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Peter Levy teaches history at York College, where he has taught courses on Recent America, the Civil Rights Movement, Women in the U.S., Environmental History, and Race & Justice.  He has written over a dozen books, including The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s, Civil War on Race Street: The Civil War on Race Street in Cambridge, Maryland and The New Left and Labor.  

Earlier Event: April 6
Nathaniel Gadsden's Spoken Word Cafe
Later Event: April 10
An Evening with Sands Hall