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Chaotic JusticeRethinking African American Literary History$
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John Ernest

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780807833377

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807898505_ernest

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Choreographing Chaos

Choreographing Chaos

African American Literature in Time and Space

(p.147) Chapter Four Choreographing Chaos
Chaotic Justice

John Ernest

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter argues that Henry Box Brown's decision to conclude his 1851 Narrative by reprinting laws regulating slavery was not unique. Such reprintings frequently appear in slave narratives, antislavery newspapers, and such books as William Goodell's The American Slave Code in Theory and Practice and George M. Stroud's Stroud's Slave Laws: A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America. Law is a regular feature and often a major plot device in a great number of nineteenth-century African American novels as well. William Wells Brown begins Clotel by noting that marriages among the enslaved were unrecognized by both church and state—and the legal implications of that reality informs the novel throughout. Frances E. W. Harper's Iola Leroy is about a woman who believed herself to be white but learns that she is legally black, a discovery that not only repositions her significantly before the Civil War but also informs her decisions about her future after the war.

Keywords:   Henry Box Brown, slavery, slave narratives, antislavery newspapers, William Goodell, George M. Stroud, William Wells Brown

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