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Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South$
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Kimberly M. Welch

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469636436

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469636436.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

The Rhetoric of Reputation

The Rhetoric of Reputation

(p.60) 2 The Rhetoric of Reputation
Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South

Kimberly M. Welch

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter demonstrates that one of the main rhetorical tactics exploited by black litigants in the antebellum Natchez district was to leverage the cultural scripts of reputation in court proceedings. African Americans strategically deployed the language of reputation to gain a measure of autonomy over their lives. On certain occasions, such language could not only bolster their credibility, it could even curtail white authority. For black litigants, a reputation was not just a thing that one had; it was also a malleable package of linguistic possibilities one claimed or manipulated. An individual’s reputation symbolized the community’s assessment and opinion about that person, certainly; but it also entailed a language that one could leverage or deploy.

Keywords:   Reputation, Litigation, Property Rights, Statutes, Slavery

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