Leave of Court: African-American Legal Claims Making in the Era of Dred Scott v. Sandford
Martha S. Jones
University of Michigan Law School
October 6, 2007
CONTESTED DEMOCRACY: POLITICS, IDEOLOGY AND RACE IN AMERICAN HISTORY, Manisha Sinha and Penny Von Eschen, eds., Columbia University Press, 2007
This essay examines one such set of cases, free black applications for travel permits in Baltimore, Maryland. It argues that the meanings and interests being negotiated in black Americans’ everyday claims-making extended beyond the local courthouse into Supreme Court deliberations, free African-American political culture, the aspirations of Baltimore’s white civic leaders, and even the infra-politics of enslaved people on Maryland’s eastern shore. Moving between the high and low of legal culture, and from the realm of law to those of politics and society, this essay advocates an approach to legal history that highlights the juridical agency of African Americans, while also revealing how their everyday legal dealings played an integral role in the construction of antebellum American legal culture, writ large. The claims of black Americans occupied the center of antebellum legal culture, rather than its shadowy margins.
Keywords: free black people, African-Americans, claims-making, right to travel, BaltimoreAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 7, 2010
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