The Fugitive Slave Law and the Crisis Over Immigration Policy: Assessing a Forgotten Legacy

 Winfield C. Cook Constitution Day Address

Monday, September 17, 2018
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Panelists:

Richard Blackett, Vanderbilt University
Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University
Judy Giesberg, Villanova University
Matthew Pinsker (moderator), Dickinson College

The controversial 1850 Fugitive Slave Law provoked a bitter national debate over open borders, due process, family separation, federal power and northern states’ rights. Our panelists will discuss those earlier controversies and assess how they might offer important insights or perspective for the current and increasingly intense debates over Trump Administration immigration policies.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Department of History.

Biographies (provided by the speakers)

Richard Blackett is Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author, most recently, of The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the Politics of Freedom (2018) and Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Freedom (2013). He teaches courses on 19th century U.S. history and the history of the Caribbean. During the academic year, 2013-14, he was Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University.

Andrew Delbanco (biography forthcoming)

Judith Giesberg is professor of history at Villanova University. Giesberg is the author of five books, Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition (Boston, MA:  Northeastern University Press, 2000),“Army at Home:” Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009), Keystone State in Crisis:  Pennsylvania in the Civil War (Pennsylvania Historical Association, 2013), and Emilie Davis’s Civil War:  The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865 (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.)  Giesberg’s latest book, Sex and the Civil War, began as a short paper on Anthony Comstock presented to the Civil War Caucus several years ago, where fellow caucusers offered terrific advice and leant their enthusiasm to an attempt to explore pornography and the sexual culture of the U.S. Army camps during the Civil War. Giesberg is editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

Currently, Giesberg is directing a digital project, Last Seen:  Finding Family After Slavery, that is collecting, digitizing, and transcribing information wanted ads taken out by former slaves looking for family members lost to the domestic slave trace.  Her new project is a study of the administration of the 1870 census.

Photo Credit: Ryan Burke

Matthew Pinsker is a professor of history and holds the Brian Pohanka Chair of Civil War History at Dickinson College.  He also serves as director of the House Divided Project at Dickinson College, an innovative effort to build digital resources on the Civil War era. Pinsker has previously held fellowships at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, National Constitution Center and New America Foundation. Pinsker graduated from Harvard College and received a doctoral degree in modern history from the University of Oxford. He is the author of two books:  Abraham Lincoln –a volume in the American Presidents Reference Series from Congressional Quarterly Press (2002) and Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home (Oxford University Press, 2003).  Pinsker’s next book is forthcoming from W.W. Norton & Co., entitled, Boss Lincoln: The Partisan Life of Abraham Lincoln.  Pinsker has helped train over 5,000 K-12 history educators and frequently leads teacher-training workshops for organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He currently serves the Organization of American Historians (OAH) as a “Distinguished Lecturer.” Finally, Pinsker sits on the advisory boards of several historic organizations, including Ford’s Theatre Society, Gettysburg Foundation, National Civil War Museum, and President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home.

Winfield C. Cook Constitution Day Address
The annual address is endowed through the generosity of Winfield C. Cook, former Dickinson Trustee. Each year the Clarke Forum invites a prominent public figure to campus to speak on a contemporary issue related to the Constitution. The event celebrates the signing of the United States Constitution and commemorates Dickinson’s connection to that document, through John Dickinson’s participation as an original signer. Previous speakers have included Kenneth Starr, Ira Glasser, Lowell Weicker, Marjorie Rendell, Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Kimberlé Crenshaw.