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Most histories of the US Civil War assume that the Union drew on exclusively US political traditions to overthrow slavery and thus perfect a freedom supposed to have inhered in the nation from the beginning. Andrew Zimmerman shows instead how German American Union soldiers drawing on European Communism and enslaved rebels drawing on Afro-Atlantic religious traditions (Conjure, or Hoodoo, and Vodou/Voodoo) forced emancipation on an unwilling Union leadership and helped defeat the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
This is part of the intellectual and military history of what W.E.B. DuBois described as the “General Strike” of enslaved workers. While the Lincoln administration and top Union generals fought to restore the status quo antebellum, slavery and all, German emigres and enslaved African Americans helped create what Carl von Clausewitz termed “war by means of popular uprisings.”
Andrew Zimmerman is professor of history at the George Washington University. He is the author of Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South and Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany. He has also edited Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Civil War in the United States. He is currently writing a history of the American Civil War as a transnational working-class rebellion titled “A Very Dangerous Element.”
This talk is presented by the ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures, the Department of English, the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and the School of Social Transformation along with support from Wunderbar Together—Germany and the U.S.