Professors John Fabian Witt '99 and James Oakes to Discuss New Books on Civil War, Emancipation

Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law John Fabian Witt ‘99 and James Oakes, Distinguished Professor of History at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, will discuss their new works about the Civil War and emancipation on Monday, April 8, 2013.

The book discussion, entitled “‘Emancipation: The Moral Pivot of American History,” is co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale and Yale Law School. It begins at 4:30 p.m. in Room 102, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High Street, and is free and open to the public.

One hundred and fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Professors Oakes and Witt, eminent scholars in American history, have published important books about politics and law during the Civil War. James Oakes’ Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, weaves together politics and the actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves to give a full and gripping account of the process of emancipation, and the centrality of slavery to the war and war efforts. In Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History, John Fabian Witt analyzes the development and impact of the code Lincoln issued in late 1862—a departure from earlier efforts to set the boundaries of conduct in armed conflict—that became the foundation of the modern laws of war. Gilder Lehrman Center director and Class of 1954 Professor of History, David W. Blight, will moderate this discussion about the newest scholarship about the Civil War.

James Oakes is Distinguished Professor of History and the Humanities Professor at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He previously taught at Princeton and Northwestern universities. His first two books were about slavery in the antebellum South but more recently he has turned his attention to the history of antislavery. In 2007 he published The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics, and in 2012 Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States—both of which were awarded the Lincoln Prize.

Professor Witt is Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University. Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012. He was also awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize by Columbia University in March 2013 for the book.

Witt’s previous writings includes Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2007), and the prizewinning book, The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2004), as well as articles in the American Historical Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, The Yale Law Journal, and other scholarly journals. He has written for the New York Times, Slate, and the Washington Post. In 2010 he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Professor Witt is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and he holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale.