“Against slavery’s millennia, the struggle to abolish it came abruptly. By the end of the succeeding century, against slavery’s immense and unyielding power, it had largely succeeded. As a spiritual as well as political endeavor, it is one of the most, if not the most astonishing unfolding of the unforeseen in all of recorded human history. Yet it is too often at best consigned to the inevitable, as something that was bound to happen as if in the natural unfolding of progress. At worst, it is pushed to the margins, as if slavery’s abolition came about without abolitionists, without politics, let alone without rebellious slaves—the byproduct, as some accounts say, of impersonal, amoral economic forces, or the unintended outcome of white people’s selfish squabbles over policy and profits, or even as an accident.” (Wilentz, 2019, p.3)
His point is that is was unpredicted at the time. “…it is one of the most, if not the most astonishing unfolding of the unforeseen in all of recorded human history”
He says that in the context of all of human history, from the bible to the U.S. civil war, “it came abruptly.”
He says that it is a mistake to think that historical event of abolition of slavery was inevitable. For the most part the rejection of slavery was accomplished by the end of the 1800s–racism still exists, but slavery is considered by the vast majority of the population to be unacceptable.