[PAST EVENT] Africana First Friday with Professor Patricia Lott
April 3, 2015
12pm - 1pm
This talk rethinks gradual emancipation from racial slavery in the post-revolutionary and pre-civil-war North through the lens of crime in its various meanings. It seeks to show that the philosophy and practice of gradualism, which generally advocated freeing the children of bondwomen only after they reached legal adulthood, often framed state-mandated emancipation as a violation of the natural law prescribing property as a "right" of "man," and thereby posited unfettering slaves without compensating owners as a breaking of that natural law. It also considers the coeval nature of gradual emancipation and the institution of new or severer disabilities associated with reputedly criminal acts in various northern states, including New York's 1799 gradual abolition law's expansion of civil death and Pennsylvania's 1780 gradual abolition act's embodiment of the earliest if not the first codified criminalization of fugitivity from racial slavery in its outlawing of the sheltering of runaway slaves and its provision for their recaption. One of the overarching questions that the paper seeks to address is: if uncompensated, state-sanctioned emancipation was an offense against the law and/or rendered black freedom synonymous with transgression, then what significance does that criminality pose for how one understands the meanings of race, racial slavery, and emancipation in the antebellum North?