The Case of Jean Baptiste, un Créole De Saint-Domingue: Narrating Slavery, Freedom, and the Haitian Revolution in Baltimore City
Martha S. Jones
University of Michigan Law School
The American South and the Atlantic World, p. 104, Brian Ward, Martin Bone, and William A. Link, eds., University Press of Florida, May 2013
U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 376
The story of the widow Volunbrun and her slaves might be told through differing analytic frames: empire, constitution making, anti-slavery constitution making, antislavery movements, political economy, high court pronouncements pronouncements, and biography.8 In this essay the answers lie in the intimate dynamics of a household and the lived experience of the enslaved people in it. Can we understand what the problem of slavery and freedom looked like for those enslaved people whose life itineraries were shaped by the meta-forces of commercial, political, and military conflict and exchange? Being enslaved in 1796 Port-au-Prince differed from being enslaved in 1801 New York City or 1818 Baltimore. Along this Atlantic itinerary, the Volunbrun slaves confronted new rules, rituals, and structures of power. Straining to adopt their perspective, we see the lived dimensions of slavery and law. We learn how enslaved people quietly navigated a complex matrix of courts, attorneys, and reformers. We will also see how the claims of Saint-Domingue's slaves in Maryland, making their lives at the intersection of the Haitian Revolution and an emerging domestic slave trade, shaped the parameters of Southern southern legal culture.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 27
Date posted: September 18, 2013 ; Last revised: January 9, 2014