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David Brion Davis

The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture

Cornell University Press

1967 Nonfiction

The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture
Winner of the 1967 Pulitzer Prize, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture depicts the various ways different societies have responded to the intrinsic contradictions of slavery from antiquity to the early 1770s in order to establish the uniqueness of the abolitionists’ response. While slavery has always caused considerable social and psychological tension, Western culture has associated it with certain religious and philosophical doctrines that gave it the highest sanction. The contradiction of slavery grew more profound when it became closely linked with American colonization, which had as its basic foundation the desire and opportunity to create a more perfect society.

Davis provides a comparative analysis of slave systems in the Old World, a discussion of the early attitudes towards American slavery, and a detailed exploration of the early protests against Negro bondage, as well as the religious, literary, and philosophical developments that contributed to both sides in the controversies of the late eighteenth century. This exemplary introduction to the history of slavery in Western culture presents the traditions in thought and value that gave rise to the attitudes of both abolitionists and defenders of slavery in the late eighteenth century as well as the nineteenth century.

David Brion Davis is the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, founder and Director Emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, and past President of the Organization of American Historians. The author and editor of sixteen books, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and the National Book Award, Davis has played a principal role in explaining to a broad audience the latest historiography. His books emphasize religious and ideological links among material conditions, political interests, and new political values. Ideology, in his view, is not a deliberate distortion of reality or a façade for material interests; rather, it is the conceptual lens through which groups of people perceive the world around them.

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Blog Posts about David Brion Davis

Meet Our 2015 Winners In And Around Cleveland This September

Anisfield-Wolf award winners are—almost by definition—civic minded. They continue a generous tradition of adding extra public conversations each September in Cleveland. For those readers whose schedules don’t allow them to attend the awards ceremony or who want more than one chance to hear these gifted writers, here are the details: Poet Marilyn Chin, a professor at San Diego State University, will read and discuss her work in Hard Love Province.  She will appear alongside John Carroll University’s Phil Metres, whose recent book... Read More →

Meet Our 2015 Winners

The Cleveland Foundation today announced the winners of its 80th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The 2015 recipients of the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity are: • Jericho Brown, The New Testament, Poetry • Marilyn Chin, Hard Love Province, Poetry• David Brion Davis, Lifetime Achievement• Richard S. Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, Nonfiction• Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings, Fiction “The new Anisfield-Wolf... Read More →
  • David Brion Davis

    David Brion Davis

    Born: 1927

    Other Works

    • The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1967)
    • The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (1975)
    • Slavery and Human Progress (1984)
    • From Homicide to Slavery (1986)
    • In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and our Heritage of Slavery (2001)

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