The slaves freed themselves (sort of).

Jim Oakes, who just won the Lincoln Prize for his Freedom National, above offers his answer to the enduring historiographical question, “Who freed the slaves?”

Given the brevity of his remarks, Oakes provides a relatively sophisticated interpretation of the relationship between high politics (the Republican Party’s policy-making apparatus) and human behavior (the actions of the slaves themselves). In the end, Oakes gives a perfect historian’s answer, suggesting that Republican lawmakers, when they crafted policy, counted on the slaves to free themselves, meaning that there was real synergy between public policy and the individual and group agency of African Americans seeking freedom.

Well, okay then. That settles that.