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Teaching the Causes of the American Civil War, 1850-1861


Edited By Michael E. Karpyn

The American Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865, killing nearly 700,000 Americans and costing the country untold millions of dollars. The events of this tragic war are so steeped in the collective memory of the United States and so taken for granted that it is sometimes difficult to take a step back and consider why such a tragic war occurred. To consider the series of events that led to this war are difficult and painful for students and teachers in American history classrooms. Classroom teachers must possess the appropriate pedagogical and historical resources to provide their students with an appropriate and meaningful examination of this challenging time period. Teaching the Causes of the American Civil War, 18501861 will attempt to provide these resources and teaching strategies to allow for the thoughtful inquiry, evaluation and assessment of this critical, complex and painful time period in American history.

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2. Slavery Was God’s Will: How Abolitionists Challenged Social and Theological Justifications for the Civil War (David Childs)


David Childs

Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

—Psalm 68:31 (KJV)

Psalms 68:31 is a bible passage that has been quoted by African American writers often throughout history. For some, the Ethiopian embodies the person of African descent in general, they have “stretched out their hand to God” even in the midst of struggle (Raboteau, 1983). It symbolizes the African and African American triumph over adversity and hardship, capturing their spiritual strength. Noted Princeton historian and theologian Albert Raboteau stated that this is the most quoted verse in black religious history (Fulop & Raboteau, 1997). This bible passage hearkens to black struggle and triumph. That black struggle and triumph was at the center of the war between the states.

The American Civil War is one of the most researched historical events in U.S. history. Many books, articles, lectures and films have been created surrounding the subject matter. The factors that led to the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history are varied and consist of a confluence of cultural, societal, economic, political and theological forces (McPherson, 2003; Stamp, 1991). But the primary issue that triggered a war between the states was slavery. After a long, hard battle the Union forces ultimately became the victor in the Civil War making further arguments to justify slavery pointless, as the ←23 | 24→peculiar institution had now been abolished. What were some of the ideological...

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