Conquest and Slavery in the Property Law Course: Notes for Teachers
2020. Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2298.
26 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020 Last revised: 27 Feb 2021
Date Written: July 24, 2020
This piece contains ideas for teaching about the foundational place of the histories of conquest and slavery to American property law and the property law course. I begin by briefly reviewing how these topics have been erased and marginalized from the study of American property law, as mentioned by casebooks in the field published from the late nineteenth century to the present. I then show how the history of conquest constituted the context in which the singular American land system and traditional theories of acquisition developed, before turning to the history of the American slave trade and the long history of resistance to Black landownership that its abolition fueled. Here, I suggest ways to correct for the tendency of traditional property law curricula to focus exclusively on English doctrines regulating relations between neighbors, rather than the unique fruits of the colonial experiment -- the land system that underpins its real estate market and its structural reliance on racial violence to produce value.
Keywords: property law, legal history, curriculum, slavery
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