African American Literature in Time and Space
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.
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