Dangerous Woman: Elizabeth Key's Freedom Suit - Subjecthood and Racialized Identity in Seventeenth Century Colonial Virginia
Taunya Lovell Banks
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2005-28
Akron Law Review, v. 41, 2008, p. 799-837.
Elizabeth Key, an African-Anglo woman living in seventeenth century colonial Virginia sued for her freedom after being classified as a negro by the overseers of her late master's estate. Her lawsuit is one of the earliest freedom suits in the English colonies filed by a person with some African ancestry. Elizabeth's case also highlights those factors that distinguished indenture from life servitude - slavery in the mid seventeenth century. She succeeds in securing her freedom by crafting three interlinking legal arguments to demonstrate that she was a member of the colonial society in which she lived. Her evidence was her asserted ancestry - English; her religion, Christian; and the inability to be enslaved for life that stems from the first two statuses. These factors, I argue, determined who was the equivalent of white in seventeenth century Virginia.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Keywords: Legal History, Race, Gender, Slavery
Date posted: February 24, 2005 ; Last revised: December 13, 2010
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