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The Fifth Border State: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Formation of West Virginia, 1829–1872
by Scott A. MacKenzie
West Virginia University Press, 2023
Paper: 978-1-952271-71-7 | eISBN: 978-1-952271-72-4
Library of Congress Classification F241.M13 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 975.403

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK

One of the first new interpretations of West Virginia’s origins in over a century—and one that corrects previous histories’ tendency to minimize support for slavery in the state’s founding.

Every history of West Virginia’s creation in 1863 explains the event in similar ways: at the start of the Civil War, political, social, cultural, and economic differences with eastern Virginia motivated the northwestern counties to resist secession from the Union and seek their independence from the rest of the state. In The Fifth Border State, Scott A. MacKenzie offers the first new interpretation of the topic in over a century—one that corrects earlier histories’ tendency to minimize support for slavery in the state’s founding.

Employing previously unused sources and reexamining existing ones, MacKenzie argues that West Virginia experienced the Civil War in the same ways as the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. Like these northernmost slave states, northwestern Virginia supported the institution of slavery out of proportion to the actual presence of enslavement there. The people who became West Virginians built a new state first to protect slavery, but radical Unionists and escaping slaves forced emancipation on the statehood movement. MacKenzie shows how conservatives and radicals clashed over Black freedom, correcting many myths about West Virginia’s origins and making The Fifth Border State an important addition to the literature in Appalachian and Civil War history.


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