Restitution Claims for Wrongful Enslavement and the Doctrine of the Master's Good Faith
3 British Journal of American Legal Studies 287 (2014)
27 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2014
Date Written: 2014
This essay seeks to explore the deployment of antebellum ideologies of race which justified denial of restitution to Black litigants who were successful in proving that they had been unjustly enslaved. Despite the evidentiary presumption that persons of color of African descent were slaves, there were instances in which Black litigants were able to prove in court that they were not slaves but held as such contrary to law. In cases of unjust enslavement Black litigants should have been entitled not only to their freedom, but also to compensation (restitution) for the value of their compelled labor. This essay will show that the denial of compensation to Black victims in unjust enslavement lawsuits under the doctrine of the so-called ‘conventional exemption’ was part of an antebellum pattern of excluding Blacks from the equal protection of the law with continuing effects under the contemporary law of restitution.
Keywords: Slavery, Restitution, Masters
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