Documenting Bankrupted Slaves
44 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2017 Last revised: 27 May 2018
Date Written: September 29, 2017
"Bankrupted Slaves" tells a story about institutional complicity in antebellum slavery — that is, the story of how the federal government in the 1840s and 1850s became the owner and seller of thousands of slaves belonging to financially distressed slaveowners who sought forgiveness of debt through the federal bankruptcy process. Relying on archival court records that have not been systematically analyzed by other scholars, "Bankrupted Slaves" analyzes how the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 and the domestic slave trade inevitably collided to create the bankruptcy slave trade, focusing the analysis through a case study of the Eastern District of Louisiana, which was home to New Orleans, antebellum America's largest slave market. This Article describes the methods used in "Bankrupted Slaves" to document the history of the Eastern District's bankruptcy slave trade and sets forth statistical tables documenting that trade.
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