Research

 

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“Journey of a Slave from the Plantation to the Battlefield” (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Jonathan’s research centers on slavery, emancipation, and race in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America.

His research has been presented at meetings of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the African American Intellectual History Society, and the Southern Historical Association, among other organizations.

His current project analyzes how black soldiers’ resistance against U.S. army discipline and passage through the military justice system shaped freedom during the Civil War. In the citation for the Allan Nevins Prize, the committee wrote of the project:

“In this unique blend of military, political, African American, gender, legal, and social history, Jonathan Lande reveals how a military operation committed to the destruction of slavery subjected black men to violence to teach them the meaning of freedom and unwittingly recreated the violence that many formerly enslaved Americans sought to escape.” (Read the full Nevins prize committee citation here.)

In the citation for the Cromwell Dissertation Prize, the committee said:

“At least since William Cooper Nell penned The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution in 1855, historians have linked African-American military service with manhood and citizenship. Black regiments in the Civil War have received considerable attention. Black service has rightly been deemed central to the North’s victory and an important step for both African-Americans’ assertion of sacrifice for and citizenship in the post-Civil War world. In his pathbreaking dissertation “Disciplining Freedom: U.S. Army Slave Rebels and Emancipation in the Civil War,” Jonathan Lande boldly argues that the conventional account is incomplete. Centering on the records of the courts martial and contextualizing them with administrative and personal sources, Lande uncovers deep northern anxiety about arming the formerly enslaved. Despite free labor ideological commitments, northern officers carried with them the albatross of slavery and white supremacy into courts martial proceedings against black soldiers. The courts martial produced minimalistic records, seemingly straightforward, and therefore deceptively equitable in their treatment of all soldiers, regardless of color. Lande’s textured reading of the records reveals them as sites of conflict. Far from being “schools” about the value of equal justice for the freedmen, these courts martial proceedings were means to discipline the formerly enslaved. For their part, freedmen continued on in their old traditions of resistance against oppression. Their experience of freedom and understanding of civic membership, Lande argues, was, in important ways, born of this struggle.”

Read an interview with the Civil War Institute of Gettysburg College on the project here.