Yankee She-Men and Octoroon Electra: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve on Slavery, Race, and Abolition

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Ancient Slavery and Abolition: From Hobbes to Hollywood




This chapter discusses the writings of the eminent 19th-century American classicist Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, founder of the first graduate program in classics in the United States and apologist for the Southern cause during the American Civil War. The chapter surveys Gildersleeve’s use of classics as exempla in his polemical and apologetic writings on the South and his use of the South as an exemplum in his writings on classics. It discusses the comparisons that Gildersleeve explicitly drew between the Peloponnesian War and the Civil War, and examines the wider connections between his pro-Southern writings and his classical scholarship, focusing on his views on slavery, abolition, and the Old South. The chapter pays particular attention to Gildersleeve’s writings on miscegenation and his scorn for the egalitarian views expressed in the famous abolitionist “man and brother” motto.


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