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Jeff Forret provides insight into ‘Slavery in the United States’

Jeff Forret, associate professor of history at Lamar University, has published his second book, “Slavery in the United States.” The book is part of the “Issues and Controversies in American History” series by New York publisher Facts on File.

The book looks at issues such as the role slaves played in the American Revolution and the implications of the U.S. Constitution upon slavery. Forret examines religious justifications for slavery, the history of the transatlantic slave trade, and other topics. Each chapter is designed around an issue that was debated among historical actors. Forret discusses both sides of the debate and how each side engaged the other.

“I found a question that is at the heart of each debate,” he said. “It has a top down approach – Northern whites arguing with Southern whites about slavery. In the classroom, it hits all of the major topics in the history of American slavery.”

Forret tells the story of American slavery through the voice of historical agents to capture an authentic narrative about the issues the book addresses.

“The book itself is very much grounded in primary sources,” he said. “It uses the words people alive at the time would use to discuss these various issues.”

The book was released in September and has already found its way into the classroom.

“At this point, since it is just in hardcover and part of a larger series, most of the purchasers are libraries,” he said. “But I am teaching an American Slavery course and have started using it this semester.”

Forret said he found doing research for the book rewarding.

“I knew about all of these events I was writing about,” he said. “But I had never really sat down and looked directly at the sources from the time to see how things were being argued back and forth. It has really helped me with the development of my class. It was a very worthwhile project for me personally.”

Forret earned his Ph.D. at the University of Delaware in 2003. He earned his M.A. in 1998 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and his B.A. at St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, Iowa, in 1995.

Forret is currently working on his third book, called “Conflict in the Community: ‘Black-on-Black Violence’ in the Slave South,” to be published by Louisiana State University Press. The book looks at slave culture and life by examining violent episodes among slaves.