Slavery on the Periphery
The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras

Kristen Epps

How the unique circumstances of slavery in a border region played a role in Bleeding Kansas, the Civil War, and the settlement of the American West


“Epps’s impressive archival research has uncovered much interesting material regarding this borderland. This and her command of a wide range of secondary studies results in a detailed portrayal of slavery and its legacy in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.”
—Stanley Harrold, American Historical Review

“Epps has produced a deeply researched work that will add to our understandings of the role that slaves played in this pivotal region during one of the most critical episodes of the nineteenth century, while continuing a vein of scholarship that should remind scholars of the flexibility and pervasiveness of slavery across time and space.”
—James J. Gigantino II, Arkansas Historical Quarterly

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Slavery on the Periphery traces the rise and fall of chattel slavery on the Kansas-Missouri border from the earliest years of American settlement through the Civil War, exploring how its presence shaped life on this critical geographical, political, and social fault line. Kristen Epps explores how this dynamic, small-scale system—characterized by slaves' diverse occupations, close contact between slaves and slaveholders, a robust hiring market, and abroad marriages—emerged from an established upper South slaveholding culture. Awareness of space and local landscapes was also a defining feature of slaves' experiences, because slave mobility could be a powerful means of resistance. This mobility became particularly crucial when the sectional conflict escalated in the 1850s and 1860s, as both enslaved and white residents became central players in a violent national struggle over the future of slavery in America.

Drawing on extensive archival research, Epps makes clear that slavery's expansion into Kansas was more than a theoretical, ideological debate. Chattel slavery was already extending its grasp into the West. By foregrounding African Americans' place in the border narrative, Epps illustrates how slavery's presence on this geographic periphery set the stage for the Civil War and emancipation here, as it did elsewhere in the United States.

Early American Places

This series is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Page count: 288 pp.
3 b&w photos, 3 maps, 2 tables, 2 graphs
Trim size: 6 X 9


List price: $59.95

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List price: $28.95

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Kristen Epps is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. Her work has been published in the edited collection Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border