If you’re like me, you learned in school that the slaves of the old American South were freed by Abraham Lincoln, or at least by the central government of the United States. I believed that for a long time, and was not only surprised, but troubled, when I learned otherwise.
But as I dug through the facts about slavery in the South, I found the same pattern that I’ve seen over and over when I examined historical turns for the better: that the true benefactors were opposed and punished.
The people who did the actual work to end slavery were regarded as criminals by every level of the United States government, from Congress and the Supreme Court, down to the local sheriff. The laws of the United States enforced slavery, and powerfully so. Anyone who broke those laws was hunted and punished, exactly the same as ordinary criminals are now.