James Oakes is a Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He discusses his book, The Crooked Path to Abolition Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution. Beginning with the inclusion of the 3/5th clause and the fugitive slave clause in the Constitution there existed a tension between a proslavery and antislavery interpretation. How did Lincoln’s thinking evolve from a young politician who barely mentioned slavery to the President of the Emancipation Proclaimation? Conventional wisdom and radical agitation factored into slavery’s debates and Lincoln embraced some while tentatively conceding others, but by the end of the Civil War, Lincoln’s came to fashion a new Union based on the overthrow of one of history’s largest Slavocracy and substantial moves toward racial equality.
James Oakes is one of our foremost Civil War historians and a two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize for his works on the politics of abolition. He teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.