Slavery and Philosophy

Henry Abelove

When George Berkeley – the eminent philosopher and churchman – moved from Ireland to a Rhode Island farm in 1731, he bought three enslaved Africans. Documents which record the transaction cast new light on slavery, philosophy, and Christianity in the modern era.  

Henry Abelove was educated at Harvard College and Yale University, where he studied both History and Literature. He took a PhD at Yale in 1978. He taught for many years at Wesleyan University -- in the History Department, the College of Letters, the English Department, and the Program in American Studies. He also held visiting professorships at Brown University, New York University, Princeton University (where he served as Stanley Kelly, Jr. Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the English Department), and at Harvard University (where he served as F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Sexuality and Gender in the Program on Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies). He has received many awards and honors, including a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship, a Danforth Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, a Fulbright Senior Specialist Award, the Binswanger Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Michael Lynch Award for Activism in Queer Studies Scholarship. He is the author of The Evangelist of Desire (Stanford, 1990) and Deep Gossip (Minnesota, 2005), and he is the co-editor of Visions of History (Pantheon, 1983) and The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (Routledge, 1993).

Now retired from teaching, he is the Willbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English Emeritus of Wesleyan University. He is at work on a cultural and intellectual history of US Gay Liberation. He lives in New York City.