Neoabolitionist (or neo-abolitionist or new abolitionism) is a term coined by historians to refer to the heightened activity of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The term was soon used by leading historians to refer to the moral impulses of historians influenced by the Civil Rights movement in their studies of slavery, Reconstruction, segregation and Jim Crow. Bradley (2009) says, "Inspired by the civil rights movement, neo-abolitionist historians such as John Hope Franklin, Kenneth M. Stampp, and Eric Foner took their cue from DuBois and placed blacks front and center in their Reconstruction narratives." They led a re-evaluation of Reconstruction and its aftermath that focused on the significance of full citizenship and suffrage for African Americans. Thus Allen C. Guelzo (2009) refers to "the most recent neo-abolitionist histories from Henry Mayer and Paul Goodman" as well as "older neo-abolitionists like James McPherson, Howard Zinn, and Martin Duberman.". George M. Fredrickson (2009) says, "Neo-abolitionist historians profess to derive their standard from the abolitionists of Lincoln's own time."
Abolition refers to the political movement to abolish slavery in the U.S., 1840s-1860s. They condemned slavery as a sin and as an offense against human dignity. They demanded an end to plantation owners' profiting from slavery. Despite opponents' attempts to suppress individuals, the abolitionist movement became quite influential in the North. The abolitionist movement thus contributed to the Northern anti-slavery sentiment that was one of the factors involved in the Civil War.
Early 20th century: Dunning School historians hostile to abolition
Early 20th century historical treatments of the abolitionists and of the era of Reconstruction were negative.
After the Civil War, former abolitionists, especially African-American historians, such as Frederick Douglass, and later, Harvard-trained historian W. E. B. Du Bois, presented positive views of the achievements of Reconstruction: for its advocacy of civil rights for African Americans and for expanded suffrage to include poor whites. Fisk University historian Alrutheus Taylor described the period of Reconstruction in North Carolina and Tennessee in several books and articles. The Dunning School of white historians discounted the memoirs of John R. Lynch, one of the first African-American members of Congress during Reconstruction, in favor of their own narratives that claimed African Americans were incompetent to vote or to participate in government.
Public opinion, among northern whites, and most opinion by white scholars, accepted or applauded the Redeemers, but some clung to the abolitionist viewpoint. James McPherson reports that 15 of 24 ex-abolitionists who wrote about Reconstruction called it a "qualified success."
Civil Rights Movement as "new abolitionists"
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s had a major impact on historians. Howard Zinn identified the movement as a revival of the old in SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Zinn popularized the term as it applied to civil rights activists, but he does not refer to historians as "neoabolitionist."
Beginning in the 1960s and strongly influenced by the Civil Rights movement, historians writing about slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, emphasized the human advancement achieved by the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of those who had been enslaved. Eric Foner dated his major survey of Reconstruction from 1863 to emphasize the success of abolition (via the Emancipation Proclamation). Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988) emphasized the "unfinished" theme in its subtitle, explicitly connecting the 1860s to the second half of the 20th century when the issues of civil rights gained passage of federal legislation to overturn state discrimination. At no point in his many books and articles does Foner refer to himself or other historians as "neoabolitionists."
Many 20th-century historians admired the original abolitionists and wrote about them (as did James McPherson and Martin Duberman), echoing their moral values. Contemporary historians, including David W. Blight, Michael Les Benedict, James McPherson, John Hope Franklin, and Steven Hahn rejected the Dunning School notion that Reconstruction was overwhelmingly corrupt. They evaluated the postwar period as not more corrupt than many times of social change and turmoil in American history. They argued that Reconstruction had positive elements: most significantly, the enfranchisement of African Americans, both free men and former slaves; the extension of citizenship and civil rights to four million African Americans; and the introduction of public schools for both blacks and poor whites throughout the South where such schools generally had not existed. Franklin, for example, points to the founding of historically black universities Howard and Fisk as two major successes of Reconstruction.
Contemporary historians observed that depriving African Americans of suffrage and civil rights was a terrible form of corruption and a violation of the tenets of representative government.
- The NAACP in 1910 called itself a "New Abolition Movement." Du Bois often used the term, as did newspapers.
- In 1952 Kenneth M. Stampp, discussing the revisionist historians of slavery (including himself), called them "scholarly descendants of the northern abolitionists." 
- In 1964, historian George Tindall said that in the 1920s H. L. Mencken was the "guiding genius" behind "the neoabolitionist myth of the Savage South." That is, Mencken was breaking with the "lost cause" heroic image of the South and sharply criticizing it, as did the abolitionists.
- In the 1960s, the term was popularized by the young radical historian Howard Zinn, who in 1964 called the activists in the Civil Rights Movement who fought to overturn Jim Crow segregation the "new abolitionists." Zinn did not use the term "neoabolitionist" nor did he apply the term to contemporary historians.
- Fredrickson says, "the most thorough and influential of the neo-abolitionist works of the 1960s was James M. McPherson, The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionist and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction (1964). He notes that much neo-abolitionist historiography "clearly sides with the radicals against Lincoln," while McPherson himself later became more favorable to Lincoln.
- In 1969, Stanford historian Don E. Fehrenbacher in the American Historical Review wrote about, "today's neoabolitionist historians, whose own social roles often intensify their sense of identity with the antislavery radicals."
- In 1974 C. Vann Woodward noted that, "by the 1950s a neoabolitionist mood prevailed among historians of slavery.
- In 1975 Princeton professor James McPherson's Abolitionist Legacy used "neo-abolitionist" more than 50 times to characterize 20th century activists and historians.
- In 1986, historian Jack Temple Kirby, argued, "Neo-abolitionist includes both popular and scholarly liberalism and black history in race relations imagery and scholarship, and a certain cynicism toward white southern elites."
- Yale professor David W. Blight wrote, "In the end this is a story of how the forces of reconciliation overwhelmed the emancipationist vision in the national culture, how the inexorable drive for reunion both used and trumped race. But the story does not merely dead-end in the bleakness of the age of segregation; so much of the emancipationist vision persisted in American culture during the early twentieth century, upheld by blacks and a fledgling neo-abolitionist tradition, that it never died a permanent death on the landscape of Civil War memory. That persistence made the revival of the emancipationist memory of the war and the transformation of American society possible in the last third of the twentieth century."
- The conservative National Review commented in 2003 that "This general perspective on the sectional conflict is already well represented by the Neoabolitionist school of Early American historians, and informs important works by scholars such as Paul Finkelman, Leonard Richards, Donald Robinson, and William Wiecek."
- The following appeared in the February 2005 issue of The American Historical Review p 215: ("the iconoclastic historian Stanley M. Elkins reinterpreted the rebellious slave as a neoabolitionist fantasy.")
- The term Neoabolition or neo-abolitionist is considered by the historian Harvard Sitkoff to sometimes be a derisive term.
- Michael Fellman in 2006 wrote: "Starting in the late 1950s and continuing through the next decade, in tandem with the rise of the civil rights movement, many progressive historians reevaluated the abolitionists, even referring to the contemporary movement for change in America's perception of race as the 'new abolitionism.'"
- Winthrop Jordan (2008) examines a contemporary group of "neo-abolitionist" historians which, "is taking seriously again the critiques of black and white abolitionists."
- Zeus Leonardo argued in 2009 the term had uses beyond historiography, saying, "Neo-abolitionist pedagogy suggests that teachers and students work together to name, reflect on, and dismantle discourses of whiteness. It means disrupting white discourses and unsettling their codes."
- Allen C. Guelzo (2009) notes that Lincoln's hesitation regarding emancipation, "has earned him the execration of every abolitionist and neo-abolitionist, from Garrison to (most recently) Ebony editor Lerone Bennett, whose book Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream depicts Lincoln as a callous white racist, the kind of fence straddler 'we find in almost all situations of oppression or it.'"
- David Seed (2010) identifies the novel This Child's Gonna Live (1969) by Sarah E Wright, as a "neo-abolitionist" novel which "borrows from black nationalist discourse in its bold exploration of the loss of social ground gained in the Reconstruction South."
- Miller (2012) points to "the neo-abolitionist tone of nearly all the academic literature" on slavery.
- Abolition originally referred to the abolition of black slavery. However, the term "neoabolitionist" has been extended to cover sexual slavery in the 21st century.
- Second Redemption
- Second Reconstruction
- Redemption (U.S. history)
- American Civil War
- American Civil Rights Movement
- Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964)
- Mark Bradley (2009). Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction North Carolina. University Press of Kentucky. p. 268.
- Allen C. Guelzo (2009). Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas. SIU Press. p. 99.
- George M Fredrickson (2009). Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race. Harvard University Press. p. 29.
- Hugh Tulloch, The Debate on the Civil War Era, (1999) ch. 3, esp. p. 98
- McPherson, Abolitionist Legacy page 5, 114, 317–385, 390
- Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists 1964
- Martin Duberman, ed. The Antislavery Vanguard: New Essays on the Abolitionists 1966
- David W. Blight (2001). Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Belknap Press;. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-674-00819-7.
- Michael Les Benedict (1974). A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction, 1863-1869. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-393-05524-8.
- John Hope Franklin with Alfred Moss (2001). From Slavery to Freedom. A History of African Americans (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0-07-112058-0.
- Steven Hahn (2004). A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01765 Check
- McPherson 1975
- Stampp, "The Historian and Southern Negro Slavery", American Historical Review, Vol. 57, No. 3. (April, 1952), pp. 613-624
- Tindall, "Mythology: A New Frontier in Southern History," in Frank E. Vandiver, ed., The Idea of the South: Pursuit of a Central Theme, 1964 pp 5–6
- George M Fredrickson (2008). Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race. Harvard University Press. pp. 131 note 13.
- American Historical Review (April 1974) p. 471
- Jack Temple Kirby, Made Dixie: The South in the American Imagination (1986) p xix
- Harvard Sitkoff (2001). Segregation, Desegregation, Resegregation: African American Education, A Guide to the Literature. Organization of American Historians. ISSN 0882-228X.
- Fellman, Prophets of Protests (2006) pp ix-x
- Winthrop D. Jordan (2008). Slavery and the American South. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-60473-199-6.
- Zeus Leonardo (2009). Race, Whiteness, and Education. Taylor & Francis. p. 169.
- Allen C. Guelzo (2009). Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas. Southern Illinois University. p. 100.
- David Seed (2010). A Companion to Twentieth-Century United States Fiction. John Wiley & Sons. p. 86.
- Joseph C. Miller (2012). The Problem of Slavery As History: A Global Approach. Yale University Press. pp. 120, also pp 1, 9, 38, 158.
- Benjamin N. Lawrance; Richard L. Roberts (2012). Trafficking in Slavery's Wake: Law and the Experience of Women and Children in Africa. Ohio University Press. p. 164.
- W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America (Free Press: 1998) with introduction by David Levering Lewis ISBN 0-684-85657-3.
- Martin Duberman, "The Avenging Angel, "The Nation, May 4, 2005
- Michael Fellman and Lewis Perry, eds., Antislavery Reconsidered, Louisiana State University Press: 1981.
- Michael Fellman, Prophets of Protests, New Press, 2006.
- Robert P. Green, Jr., "Reconstruction Historiography: A Source of Teaching Ideas," The Social Studies, (July/August 1991), pp. 153-157 online
- Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds., Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism, The New Press, 2006.
- Lewis Perry. "Psychology and the Abolitionists: Reflections on Martin Duberman and the Neoabolitionism of the 1960s" Reviews in American History Vol. 2, No. 3 (Sep., 1974), pp. 309–322
- Alrutheus A. Taylor, Negro in Tennessee 1865-1880 (Reprint Co, June 1, 1974) ISBN 0-87152-165-2
- Alrutheus A. Taylor, Negro in South Carolina During the Reconstruction (Ams Press: June 1924) ISBN 0-404-00216-1
- Alrutheus A. Taylor, The Negro In The Reconstruction Of Virginia (Washington, DC: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History: 1926)