Local Matters: Race, Crime, and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century South

Local Matters: Race, Crime, and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century South

by Ariela Gross
     
 

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Much of the current reassessment of race, culture, and criminal justice in the nineteenth-century South has been based on intensive community studies. Drawing on previously untapped sources, the nine original papers collected here represent some of the best new work on how racial justice can be shaped by the particulars of time and place.

Although each essay is

Overview

Much of the current reassessment of race, culture, and criminal justice in the nineteenth-century South has been based on intensive community studies. Drawing on previously untapped sources, the nine original papers collected here represent some of the best new work on how racial justice can be shaped by the particulars of time and place.

Although each essay is anchored in the local, several important larger themes emerge across the volume—such as the importance of personality and place, the movement of former slaves from the capriciousness of "plantation justice" to the (theoretically) more evenhanded processes of the courts, and the increased presence of government in daily aspects of American life.

Local Matters cites a wide range of examples to support these themes. One essay considers the case of a quasi-free slave in Natchez, Mississippi—himself a slaveowner—who was "reined in" by his master through the courts, while another shows how federal aims were subverted during trials held in the aftermath of the 1876 race riots in Ellenton, South Carolina. Other topics covered include the fear of black criminality as a motivation of Klan activity; the career of Thomas Ruffin, slaveowner and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice; blacks and the ballot in Washington County, Texas; the overturned murder conviction of a North Carolina slave who had killed a white man; the formation of a powerful white bloc in Vicksburg, Mississippi; agitation by black and white North Carolina women for greater protections from abusive white male elites; and slaves, crime, and the common law in New Orleans.

Together, these studies offer new insights into the nature of law and the fate of due process at different stages of a highly racialized society.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Examining how institutions operated on the ground, these essays emphasize that Americans' apparent dedication to legalism was a highly complex matter. With their focus on the nineteenth-century South, moreover, they do much to reveal the interactions of race, class, and gender in a society where ideals of democracy and hierarchy created a tension that could never be easily resolved. . . . A valuable contribution to the study of the nineteenth-century South. Its essays tell us much about southern legal history. They also do much to demonstrate the relevance of that history to our understanding of the larger complexities of the region and of the nation as a whole.”--Journal of American History

"Deep research, persuasive interpretation, and graceful prose all commend this excellent volume to the reader."--American Historical Review

"The editors should be commended for developing a tightly organized and focused collection that is certain to advance debate concerning the legal system and extra-legal violence in the nineteenth century South."--Louisiana History

"[T]his collection of essays valuably exploits the sometimes difficult to access riches of local records to offer a number of compelling interpretations of race and law in southern locales in the nineteenth century. Moreover, due to its excellent integrative introduction, it hangs together better than many anthologies do. It is highly recommended to all interested in the social history of American law and in the social history of the American South."--H-Net

"Local Matters is a fine anthology of painstakingly researched and well-written essays, each an example of how archival research can illuminate the conventional legal record."--Alabama Review

Journal of American History

Examining how institutions operated on the ground, these essays emphasize that Americans' apparent dedication to legalism was a highly complex matter. With their focus on the nineteenth-century South, moreover, they do much to reveal the interactions of race, class, and gender in a society where ideals of democracy and hierarchy created a tension that could never be easily resolved. . . . A valuable contribution to the study of the nineteenth-century South. Its essays tell us much about southern legal history. They also do much to demonstrate the relevance of that history to our understanding of the larger complexities of the region and of the nation as a whole.

American Historical Review

Deep research, persuasive interpretation, and graceful prose all commend this excellent volume to the reader.

Louisiana History

The editors should be commended for developing a tightly organized and focused collection that is certain to advance debate concerning the legal system and extra-legal violence in the nineteenth century South.

H-Net

[T]his collection of essays valuably exploits the sometimes difficult to access riches of local records to offer a number of compelling interpretations of race and law in southern locales in the nineteenth century. Moreover, due to its excellent integrative introduction, it hangs together better than many anthologies do. It is highly recommended to all interested in the social history of American law and in the social history of the American South.

Alabama Review

Local Matters is a fine anthology of painstakingly researched and well-written essays, each an example of how archival research can illuminate the conventional legal record.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820322476
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
04/28/2001
Series:
Studies in the Legal History of the South Series
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Lou Falkner Williams is an associate professor of history at Kansas State University.

Sally E. Hadden, an associate professor of history at Western Michigan University, is the author of Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas and coeditor ofThe Blackwell Companion to American Legal History.

Timothy S. Huebner, L. Palmer Brown Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Chair of the Department of History at Rhodes College, is author of The Taney Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy and coeditor, with Kermit L. Hall, of Major Problems in American Constitutional History, second edition. He and Paul Finkelman edit the series Studies in the Legal History of the South.

Paul Finkelman is President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity and Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson.

Timothy S. Huebner, L. Palmer Brown Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Chair of the Department of History at Rhodes College, is author of The Taney Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy and coeditor, with Kermit L. Hall, of Major Problems in American Constitutional History, second edition. He and Paul Finkelman edit the series Studies in the Legal History of the South.

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