"Making Sense of Slavery" is the first full history of the study of slavery in America from the rise of abolitionism to the start of the civil rights movement—a century during which questions about slavery were open for debate in a way that they had not been before and have not been since. The story unfolds in two parts. Part 1, "Slavery, " looks at the origins of the study of slavery while the institution still existed. This was the period when political pressures encouraged the development of new arguments both for and against slavery that ended up having ramifications for society as a whole—and helped lead to the Civil War. Part 2, "Freedom, " examines how the study of slavery was incorporated into the modern research university from about 1865 to 1935—after emancipation ended slavery but before the civil rights movement asserted black equality as an incontrovertible fact. Scholars seeking to navigate the social and political changes of Reconstruction and the Progressive Era looked back to slavery as a way of thinking about race relations and industrial capitalism. Here I start with the historian Herbert Baxter Adams and his students at Johns Hopkins University, who were the first university scholars to study slavery. Then I turn to Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, a Georgia-born historian who made himself into the first modern scholar of slavery. I also look at how other scholars—especially Carter Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois—started to undermine Phillips's work and lay the foundation for the kinds of slavery studies that emerged during the civil rights movement and continue to be written today.