In recent weeks, we have been reading chapters in The American Yawp about some l

In recent weeks, we have been reading chapters in The American Yawp about some later stages in the build-up toward the Civil War’s outbreak. This is a time when tensions around slavery have become unavoidably high, and slavery seems to affect all of public life. [In the next week, in chapter 14, we read about early stages of the war (followed by information on the war itself).]
Throughout the 20 to 30 years leading up to the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, slavery had definitely become a “subject of public debate.” To get an analogy in our minds to what that means, how that felt in lived experience, think about the time we are living in: [COVID-19 is too different to be a good analogy (personal, pervasive, semi-defined)]; I would suggest we think about the attention we now pay in public life to systemic forms of racism & white supremacy embedded in society. Opinions are myriad, areas affected are broad, and it is hard to ignore its significance. That is an example of what the rather tame phrase “a subject of public debate” feels like when you are in it.
Our AY readings have not detailed, in one place, influences leading toward the Civil War: the chapters are more diffuse than that. Spread through all the chapters, we read about events and issues that help us understand how (over these decades) war gets closer and closer – until, even though not historically inevitable, war does begin. (You will notice here I do not say “immediate causes”; we are considering a range of political, social, economic, labor-centered aspects of U.S. life that influence the nation toward war, so to speak. Because that war was NOT inevitable; in retrospect it can look like it was, because it happened – but it is crucial in studying history to remember we are dealing with choices and consequences, not karma.
Our task for this week’s discussion is to pull together those strands, to analyze how things that had happened through the 20 to 40 years preceding the outbreak of war in 1861 can be understood as leading toward that possibility. What we create, in that sense, is a pre-Civil War political (and cultural and economic and ???) timeline. See how I am not “giving too much away” about what elements will be helpful in our understanding?
YOUR task is to add your thoughts/posts to those of others to analyze and come to better understand how the United States – united by parts of its colonial past, after its successful effort to throw off British rule, and being able to form a nation – just 80 years later found itself on the edge of dissolution. Violent dissolution.
For your IP, examine one “thing” that helps you understand this path (a cultural move, an economic reality, a political experience): tell what it is and explain how it fits as part of a pre-Civil War timeline.
Be sure you give citations; it would be with page numbers, if our book had pages; instead, be sure to provide chapter numbers (at least), to identify where material comes from (since we range over a number of chapters). Page numbers, for sure, if you use material from Douglass or Jacobs: citations are not optional; they are required. Something that trips up many students: You give a citation for any material you get from a source – not only with quotations; many students make that mistake. Quotations, yes – but everything else, too.
Use correct citation/book title (shown in italics style. (Though your citations themselves can be simple in-text parenthetical citations.)
Be sure you follow discussion guidelines to only post original thoughts: you may well come to discussion intending to post about something particular and find another student has already posted about it. (So, yes, read all posts before you add your own post. As required. Not being original costs points.) If you find your idea is “taken,” write your post about something else. Only still write on the same topic/event if you have something wholly different to say about it. (One suggestion: you can skim subject lines to can get a snapshot of what has been chosen already – that doesn’t mean you can’t say something new, this is just a helpful “first step”: if 12 posts have the subject line “Lincoln,” well – that might not be your best choice! (MY THINKING: we are examining the few decades leading to the war: I would be content if NO ONE wrote about Lincoln, since my hope is to determine influences earlier than the actual start of the war.)

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