Neither Fugitive nor Free: Atlantic Slavery, Freedom Suits, and the Legal Culture of Travel

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Neither Fugitive nor Free draws on a largely unexplored archive, the freedom suit, to offer a more historically embedded understanding of the concept of freedom. While recuperating the freedom suit-legal petitions for freedom initiated by slaves (and abolitionists on their behalf) whom traveling slaveholders brought into free jurisdictions-it charts a circum-Atlantic course through London, Kingston, Boston, St. Louis, and Charleston. Reconstructed from pamphlets, newspapers, slave narratives, novels, and casebooks, these legal stories comprise a loose genre of antislavery literature, documenting the struggles of jurists, abolitionists, slaves, free blacks, and slaveholders as they negotiated the predicament of a territorially bounded freedom.

This study places such historically central antislavery figures as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Granville Sharpe, and Sojourner Truth alongside such lesser-known slave plaintiffs as Lucy Ann Delaney and Harriet Robinson Scott. Each chapter investigates a landmark case or ordinance as its central source material: Somerset v. Stewart (1772), Commonwealth v. Aves (1836), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), and the South Carolina Negro Seamen Act (1822). Situated at the nexus of literary criticism, feminism, and legal history, Neither Fugitive nor Free presents the freedom suit as a critical new genre for African American and American literary studies.

In the America And The Long 19th Century Series

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814794562
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Series: Alternative Criminology Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Edlie L. Wong is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick where she teaches nineteenth-century African American and American literature.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction: Traveling Slaves and the Geopolitics of Freedom 1

1 Emancipation after "the Laws of Englishmen" 19

2 Choosing Kin in Antislavery Literature and Law 77

3 The Gender of Freedom before Dred Scott 127

4 The Crime of Color in the Negro Seamen Acts 183

Conclusion: Fictions of Free Travel 240

Notes 263

Index 325

About the Author 339

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