Inspired by Israel on the Appomattox's imaginative reconstruction of the contingencies of manumission and conditional emancipation prior to the Civil War, Julie Saville considers gradual emancipation's resemblances to aspects of twentieth-century notions of “minimalist democracy.” A premise that economic activities can be meaningfully separated from political participation and human rights undergirds many of the institutional and customary interactions that the book has uncovered. Melvin Ely also sheds new light on the symbolic work that racial stereotypes accomplished for their producers. Such features would seem to make the Virginians' projects of gradual emancipation less “visionary” but no less significant than this important study has revealed.

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