Location: Bowdoin / Patrick Rael


Patrick Rael

Professor of History

Contact Information

211C Hubbard Hall

Fall 2014

  • Black Humor (AFRS 1017)
  • The Civil War Era (AFRS 1241)
  • Black Humor (HIST 1017)
  • The Civil War Era (HIST 1241)

Patrick Rael

Patrick Rael (pronounced "rail") is a specialist in African-American history, who earned his Ph.D. in American History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995.  He is the author of numerous essays and books, including Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North (North Carolina, 2002), which earned Honorable Mention for the Frederick Douglass Prize from the Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.  He is also the editor of African-American Activism before the Civil War: The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North (Routledge, 2008), and co-editor of Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature (Routledge, 2001).  He has earned fellowships from, among others, the Library of Congress; Smithsonian Institution; American Historical Association; Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (Yale U.); the Center for the Study of Religion (Princeton U.); American Antiquarian Society; and Library Company of Philadelphia.  Rael is a committed pedagogue who has written extensively about teaching, has contributed to the development of African-American history curricula, and has for over a decade led seminars and workshops on teaching American history in primary and secondary schools. His most recent book is  Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 (University of Georgia Press, forthcoming 2015).


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
M.A. University of California, Berkeley
B.A. University of Maryland, College Park

Research and Teaching Fields

African American, antebellum America, antislavery, Civil War and Reconstruction, comparative slavery and emancipation, war and society

My c.v. (link will open a PDF - Portable Document Format pdf)

My upcoming book Eighty-Eight Years:  The Long Death of Slavery, 1777-1865 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, forthcoming).

Check out my posts on the African American Intellectual History Society blog.

Check out my review of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012).

African-American Activism before the Civil War: The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North (Routledge, 2008).

African-American Activism Historians have long understood that racial oppression in American history was about more than slavery. On the eve of the Civil War, over five per cent of the nation's 4.5 million African Americans lived outside of bondage in the nominally 'free' states of the Union. These African Americans exercised a power in national discussions over slavery that far outstripped their number in the population. Their efforts at community building and radical protest were one force that helped propel the nation to civil war, and ultimately led to the extinction of slavery. African-American Activism before the Civil War is the first work to gather together scholarly essays published from 1965 to the present on the role of African Americans and race in the struggle for equality in the northern states before the Civil War. Many of these essays are already known as classics in the field, and others are well on their way to becoming definitive in a still evolving field. Here, in one place, anchored by a comprehensive, analytical introduction discussing the historiography of antebellum black activism, the best scholarship on this crucial minority of African American activists can now be studied together.

"African Americans, Slavery, and Thrift from the Revolution to the Civil War." Several years ago this essay was commissioned for a collection, which was published as a chapter in Thrift and Thriving in America:  Capitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present, eds. Joshua Yates and James Davison Hunter (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

"A Common Nature, A United Destiny: African-American Responses to Scientific Racism from the Revolution to the Civil War," in Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds. Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: New Press, 2006), pp. 183-99.

Slavery in New York Gradually, from the 1830s onward, the fierce and fiery rhetoric of mere handfuls of radical activists began to influence the center of American politics. Slowly and painfully, the ideas of a scorned and rejected minority infiltrated public debate, polarizing public opinion, and eventually precipitating the colossal ideological battles that raged from 1848 to 1860. The antislavery ideology the Union marched to war with in April of 1861 was a hopelessly co-opted descendent of its antebellum original, yet in the maelstrom of the Civil War it was sufficient to spur the complete obliteration of the hated institution of slavery. Both that great conflict and the emancipation it demanded owed their origins to the efforts of black activists in the antebellum North.

from "A Common Nature, A United Destiny"

"The Long Death of Slavery," in Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris, eds., Slavery in New York (New York: The New Press, 2005).
Audio Listen to Professor Rael's interview on Against the Grain »

Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North (University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature, 1790-1860 (Routledge, 2000).

WGBH Forum Network: Memory of the Slave Trade in New England "Divine Instrumentalities for Divine Ends: African Americans, Exodus, and the Memory of Slavery in the North" (includes audio and video).

Slavery in New York Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North Pamphlets of Protest

I am a co-editor for the series "Race in the Atlantic World" by the University of Georgia Press. Click here for the flyer, or contact me if you have a manuscript that might fit in the series.

I am priviledged to have been named an OAH Distinguished Lecturer.  If you are interested in a speaker for the Civil War sesquicentennial, I hope you'll be in touch.