Slave women, county courts and the law in the United States South: a comparative perspective

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Loren L. Schweninger, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: This article provides an analysis of how slave women, during the period from the American Revolution to the Civil War, filed civil suits for their freedom in the county courts. The cases occurred primarily in the Upper South. It is argued in this article that it was only as property - being part of an estate, cited in an deed of indenture, freed in a last will and testament, being imported into a state against the law, living with their owners or their owners' knowledge in free territory - that slaves were permitted to file such suits; but when they did, they were often successful, in large measure due to talented lawyers. This article also compares the legal process of manumission in the United States South with emancipation in other slave societies in the Americas, suggesting that the experience in the United States was in many ways unique. The article concludes with a brief comparison of the suits for freedom brought by women and those brought by men, offering data to reveal that there were more similarities than differences between the genders.

Additional Information

European Review of History issue titled Citizenship and the State in Classical Antiquity and the Modern Americas 16 (June 2009), 383-399. DOI: 10.1080/13507480902916944
Language: English
Date: 2009
Slavery, courts, freedom suits, women, United States

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