Dred Scott's Daughters: Nineteenth Century Urban Girls at the Intersection of Race and Patriarchy

Posted: 4 Feb 2001

See all articles by Barbara Bennett Woodhouse

Barbara Bennett Woodhouse

Emory University School of Law; University of Florida Levin College of Law


Children's stories have too often been ignored by history, especially those of children or youths growing up at the intersections of race, gender and class. This article inspects the ways in which an individual's status as a minor in nineteenth century America interacted with institutions of slavery and indenture, and burdens of poverty and illegitimacy. The article uses the story of Frederick Douglass' childhood and youth as a springboard to explore the lives of nineteenth century urban boys in slavery and sevitude. As the young Douglass noted, "all boys are bound to someone" although some were "slaves for life." The article then focuses on the similar but distinctive challenges faced by urban girls in slavery. Drawing upon the stories of Eliza and Lizzie Scott, it shows how their stories were subsumed in that of their famous father in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. It explores the special challenges faced by black urban girls, and the special courage of those girls who escaped to free territory. The article closes by arguing that children's experiences of slavery and servitude can contribute to the ongoing task of interpreting the meaning of "liberty" under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Suggested Citation

Woodhouse, Barbara Bennett, Dred Scott's Daughters: Nineteenth Century Urban Girls at the Intersection of Race and Patriarchy. Buffalo Law Review, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=256597

Barbara Bennett Woodhouse (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-4934 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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