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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, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 20 November 2019

The Sanctity of Property

The Sanctity of Property

Chapter:
(p.134) 5 The Sanctity of Property
Source:
Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South
Author(s):

Kimberly M. Welch

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469636436.003.0006

This chapter examines lawsuits over property. Free blacks went to court with full knowledge of their rights to property, and they expected the courts to deal with them fairly and protect those rights, just as they would with white southerners. They sued whites and other people of color in disputes over real and personal property. They also appealed to the courts to protect the dignity of their labor and sued to protect labor contracts or recover back wages. Like many antebellum Americans, free people of color viewed their labor as a form of property; it too represented a path to economic independence. Property ownership, however, sometimes rendered free people of color vulnerable to the greed of unscrupulous individuals. Free blacks’ precarious position in a social order dedicated to white supremacy sometimes meant they were the victims of fraud—or worse. When cheated, they appealed to the courts to intervene. This chapter focuses its attention primarily on the property disputes of free people of color, as the southern legal apparatus did not acknowledge or protect the slaves’ economy, but on occasion even those held as property went to court and sued.

Keywords:   Property, Civil Rights, Property Rights, Litigation, Free Blacks

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