Lawyers and Slaves: A Remarkable Case of Representation from the Antebellum South

University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review, vol. 1, p.47, 2011

29 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011 Last revised: 11 Sep 2012

Jason Gillmer

Gonzaga University - School of Law

Date Written: December 31, 2010

Abstract

This essay examines the unexplored topic of lawyers who represented slaves in the antebellum era. Drawing on a single case study, the paper recreates the story surrounding a legal dispute that arose when David Webster of Galveston, Texas, freed a slave woman named Betsy and left her all of his property in his will. The case was controversial; not only did it expose the existence of an interracial relationship but it also raised the troubling question of whether a black woman, on the eve of the Civil War, should be entitled to her freedom and to the considerable wealth that was left to her, including the home in which they had lived. In exploring these issues, the paper draws out the attorneys who represented Betsy, examining their efforts as well as their motivations to offer valuable insight into a world in which local experience and intimate matters upends some of our fundamental assumptions about race, law, and life during slavery times.

Suggested Citation

Gillmer, Jason, Lawyers and Slaves: A Remarkable Case of Representation from the Antebellum South (December 31, 2010). University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review, vol. 1, p.47, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1733144 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1733144

Jason Gillmer (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University - School of Law ( email )

721 N. Cincinnati Street
Spokane, WA 99220-3528
United States

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