The Law in Slavery and Freedom: The United States and Latin America in Comparative PerspectiveThis course offers an opportunity to explore the interplay of historical research and legal analysis. We will analyze the ways in which slavery, generally defined in the Americas as the ownership of property in human beings, interacted with the structures and practices of law. We will examine how law created the category of "slave" and codified the power of slave owners. Looking at local judicial records, we will also explore the ways in which slaves themselves were at times able to make use of law to advance their own interests and, in some instances, achieve their freedom. We will conclude by exploring the role of law and judicial processes in upholding and challenging the structures of discrimination that emerged after the end of slavery, and in defining citizenship in the United States and in the former slave societies of the Caribbean.Course readings will include monographic works by legal scholars and historians, including Ariela Gross, Walter Johnson, Richard Pildes, Ira Berlin, Thomas Holt, and Michael Wayne. We will look at some of the everyday writings of slavery from Louisiana, Saint-Domingue, and Spanish Cuba to get a sense of the interactions of enslaved people with the law in their ordinary lives. Students will also form work teams to analyze evidence from local trial records and from appellate cases like Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Amistad captives, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Giles v. Harris.Students will prepare several short papers and a longer research paper, as well as participating in an oral panel discussion of a case.
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