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James Oakes
Position: Distinguished Professor
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center
Phone: 212-817-8439
Room Number: 5114.07
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph. D. University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests: American History
Selected Publications
The Scorpion’s Sting:  Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War (New York:  W. W. Norton, 2014)
Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861 - 1865. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012).
The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007).
Making a Nation: The United States and Its People (Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2001), chapters 14-19, 24.
Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (New York: Knopf, 1990).
The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders (New York: Knopf, 1982). Second edition published by WW Norton, 1998.


 “The Only Effectual Way”:  The Congressional Origins of the Thirteenth Amendment, Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy 15 (2017): 115-136.

“The Summer of 1863:  Lincoln and Black Troops,” in The Civil War in Art and Memory, ed. Kirk Savage (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 53-64.

“Conflict Vs. Racial Consensus in the History of Antislavery Politics,” in John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason, eds., Contesting Slavery:  The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation (Charlottesville, 2011), pp. 291-303.

"Natural Rights, Citizenship Rights, State Rights, and Black Rights: Another Look at Lincoln and Race," in Eric Foner, ed., Our Lincoln (New York: W. W. Norton: November, 2008), 109-134.

"No Such Right: American Political Culture and the Origins of Lincoln's Rejection of the Right of Property in Slaves," in Joseph Fornieri and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, eds., Lincoln's America (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008).

“‘Whom Have I Oppressed’: The Pursuit of Happiness and the Happy Slave,” in James Horn, et al, The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic (Charlottesville, Virginia: Univ. Of Virginia Press, 2003), 220-239.

“The Peculiar Fate of the Bourgeois Critique of Slavery,” in Winthrop D. Jordan, ed., Slavery and the American South (Oxford, Mississippi: Univ. Of Mississippi Press, 2002), 29-48.

"Kenneth Stampp's Peculiar Reputation," in Glenn Feldman, ed., Reading Southern History: Essays on Interpreters and Interpretations (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 2001), pp. 202-211.

“Why Slaves Can’t Read: The Political Significance of Jefferson’s Racism,” in James Gilreath, ed., Thomas Jefferson and the Education of a Citizen (Washington, D.C., Library of Congress, 1999), 177-192.

“The Compromising Expedient: Justifying a Proslavery Constitution,” Cardozo Law Review, v. 17, no. 6 (May, 1996), pp. 2023-2056.

“Slavery as an American Problem,” in Larry Griffin, ed., The South as an American Problem (University of Georgia Press; 1995).

“The Political Significance of Slave Resistance, History Workshop, 22 (Autumn, 1986).

“The Present Becomes the Past: The Planter Class in the Postbellum South,” in Robert Abzug and Stephen Maizlish, eds., New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America (Lexington, Ky., 1986).

“From Republicanism to Liberalism: Ideological Change and the Crisis of the Old South,” American Quarterly 37, (Fall, 1985).

“A Failure of Vision: The Collapse of the Freedmen’s Bureau Courts,” Civil War History, 25 (March, 1979).

Review Essays:

“’I Own My Slaves, But They Also Own Me’:  Property and Paternalism in the Slave South, Reviews in American History, v. 38, No. 4 (Dec. 2010), 587-594.

"Best of All Worlds," London Review of Books, March 11, 1010, pp. 30-1.

"A Different Lincoln," New York Review of Books, April 9, 2009.

"They Rose Above the Din," New York Review of Books, October 23, 2008.

"Lincoln and his Commas," Civil War History, Vol. LIV No. 2 (June, 2008), pp. 176-193.

"The Ages of Jackson and the Rise of American Democracies," Journal of the Historical Society (December, 2006), pp. 491-500.

"Slavery in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly (2004).

“Radical Liberals, Liberal Radicals: The Dissenting Tradition in American Political Culture,” Reviews in American History (2000).

“Was Madison More Radical than Jefferson?” Journal of the Early Republic (1996).

“The Invention of Race: Rereading White over Black,” Reviews in American History, 21 (1993), 172-183.

“The Politics of Economic Development in the Antebellum South, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XV:2 (Autumn, 1984), 305-316.

“The Muted Firebell of Old Virginia,” Reviews in American History, II, (September 1983), 374-380.

Miscellaneous Publications:

"Legislative Supremacy: Myth or Reality?" in Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal, v. 2, no. 1 (2003), 21-23.

"What's Wrong With 'Negative Liberty,'" Law and Social Inquiry, v. 21, no. 1 (Winter, 1996), 79-82.

"Comparative History and Analytical Abstraction," in Beyond White Supremacy: Towards a New Agenda for the Comparative Histories of South Africa and the United States, Collected Seminar Papers No. 49, (London, 1997)

"Slaveholding in Texas: A Response," Journal of Southern History, 51, (1985), 23-28.

Professional Service:

Chair, Rawley Prize Committee, Southern Historical Association, 2010-11.

Member, Lincoln Prize Committee, 2008-2009.

Member, Program Committee, Organization of American Historians, 1996-97

Chair, Avery Craven Prize Committee, Organization of American Historians, 1992