Dr. Frank J. Cirillo


Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room: 2.002
Niebuhrstraße 5
53113 Bonn


ProfilbildFrank Cirillo.jpg
© Frank J. Cirillo

Academic Profile

Frank J. Cirillo is a Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia. He explores the intersections of the nineteenth-century United States, slavery and emancipation, and the greater Black Atlantic World. In the course of his research and teaching, Frank has held prior fellowships and positions at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation, the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, the New-York Historical Society, The New School for Social Research, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the University of Virginia’s Nau Center for Civil War History.

The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Struggle to Transform the Union, 1861-1865

My project examines the relationship between the abolitionist movement and the Union war effort during the American Civil War. It draws on, and builds upon, a new wave of scholarship exploring the contours and character of the transatlantic antislavery movement during the nineteenth century. This movement, known as the immediate abolitionist or immediatist movement, included activists in the United States, Great Britain, France, and elsewhere who banded together against the global scourges of slavery and oppression to fight for the immediate emancipation of all slaves and some form of post-emancipation rights for African Americans.

My work presents abolitionists as idiosyncratic, moral nationalists divided over whether the Union war and its prosecutor—President Abraham Lincoln—could bring about the more perfect Union, or “morally transformed Union,” for which they yearned.  Yet the subsequent actions of these activists help illuminate not only the resounding achievements, but also the crushing limitations of the Union war respecting the righteous quest for African American racial justice.

  •  “A Compromised Convention: Abolitionists and the Cleveland Movement of 1864” (Panel Organizer: “Sectionalism, Abolitionism, and Elections in the Civil War Era”). Society of Civil War Historians Biennial Conference, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2021.
  • “Appropriating Sally Hemings: Abolitionists and the Fight Over Historical Memory.” Society of Historians of the Early Republic Annual Conference, Philadelphia, 2021.
  • “The Abolitionist Civil War.” GLC @ Virtual Lunch Series, Yale University, 2020.
  • “Wesley Frost and Abolitionist Memory.” Virtual Fellows Forum, Winterthur Museum, 2020.
  • “William Lloyd Garrison’s Grand Tour: American Abolitionists, Imperialism, and the Paris Anti-Slavery Conference of 1867” (Panel Organizer: “American Reformers and Transatlantic Imperialism in the Late 19th Century”). British American Nineteenth Century Historians Annual Conference, Edinburgh, UK, 2019.
  • “‘Till I Came Here I Was Ignorant’ of Slavery: Charlotte Forten, James Miller McKim, and Abolitionist Travel to the Sea Islands” (Panel Organizer: Northern Civilians and the Occupied Confederacy”). Southern Historical Association Conference, Birmingham, AL, 2018.
  • “The Danger of Nostalgia: Frederick Douglass and the Abolitionist Memory Wars” (Panel Organizer: “The Limitations of Frederick Douglass’ Freedom Vision”). Société des Anglicistes de l'Enseignement Supérieur Conference, Paris, France, 2018.
  • Review of Fighting for Citizenship: Black Northerners and the Debate Over Military Service in the Civil War, by Brian Taylor, in The Journal of African American History. Forthcoming.
  • 2020. “Abolitionists at War.” The Civil War Monitor 10, no. 1
  • 2019. Waiting for the Perfect Moment: Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Foster’s Union War.” In New Perspectives on the Union War, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Elizabeth R. Varon. New York: Fordham University Press. 
  • 2019. “William Birney and the Abolitionist Memory Wars.” American Historical Association, Perspectives Daily.
  • “The Long Road to African American Military Service, Parts I-III.” Black Virginians in Blue Blog, Nau Center for Civil War History, University of Virginia, 2019–20.
  • 2012. “A Southern Strategy: The Atlanta Constitution and the Lincoln Centennial, February 1909.” Madison Historical Review 9, 8–31.
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