Frontiers Of Freedom: Cincinnatis Black Community 1802-1868

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My paper argues that delegates to antebellum western state constitutional conventions, in both slave and free states, expressed violent, even homicidal ideas about free black people. They predicted and described mass exterminations, lynching, and even a race war. These delegates sought to enshrine coercive measures in their state constitutions, including re-enslavement and forcible removals, and they employed ferocious language to support their arguments. My paper explores the delegates’ efforts to mount legal and constitutional justifications for violence toward free black people. I compare the language in antebellum western conventions to coeval debates in other regions. Although no state legitimized lynching, let alone genocide, these debates provide a useful window into the delegates’ efforts to find constitutional justifications for the removal – or even extermination – of free black people from the new western states.
In 1851, the former slave turned singer Elizabeth Greenfield traveled from her home of Philadelphia to Buffalo, New York, to pursue a career as a concert singer. This article explores the terms and reception of Greenfield’s tours of the northern United States and Upper Canada in the early 1850s, where she performed before predominantly white audiences. While white critics celebrated Greenfield in highly racialized terms as an untrained natural wonder, black activists like Frederick Douglass focused on the racist management of her career and criticized Greenfield for the segregation of her concerts. Told through analysis of reviews and promotional literature, the story of Greenfield’s early career makes visible the race and gender politics operating at the intersection of popular entertainment and black movements for racial uplift and equality in the antebellum North.
Both the plight of African American young people and their feelings and thoughts about this plight are major issues of concern in U.S. politics. In 2003, the Black Youth Project was launched, with funding by the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to promote both social scientific analysis and public understanding of these issues (the project has an innovative and engaging Website that can be accessed at Cathy J. Cohen is the principal investigator of the project and, in Democracy Remixed, she draws upon a new national survey of black youth to offer a mixed-method empirical description and theoretical analysis of “black youth and the future of American politics.” In this symposium, a diverse group of political and social scientists have been asked to critically assess the book's account and to comment more broadly on the importance of black youth to the future of American politics.—Jeffrey C. Isaac, Editor
This article explores the possibilities of a "new women's legal history" as indicated by the intersections of race, gender and class as experienced by Southern enslaved women newly freed in the antebellum North, such as Nancy Wells of Mississippi and Amy Willis of South Carolina. Women such as these had been the enslaved partners and biological daughters of white slaveholding men in the South. They were brought north to Ohio for the purpose of being manumitted and identified as family members eligible to receive inheritances in their home states. The article considers too, the significance of John Jolliffe, a Cincinnati abolitionist lawyer, in developing legal strategies and representing the men and women. These private law cases, involving manumission, inheritance rights and family matters, further contribute to an understanding of abolitionist law practice. Cases such as these also enabled the practice that gave him notoriety: his pro bono work representing clients like Margaret Garner, who fought repatriation to slavery under the fugitive slave acts. The first section contextualizes the development of theoretical perspectives on race, gender and class in American legal history. The second explains the social and legal status of African-American women in the antebellum United States, enslaved and free. It demonstrates the significance of legal institutions in northern states like Ohio that affected the fortunes of newly freed women of color and influenced their abilities to gain inheritances in their homes states in the South. John Jolliffe is discussed in section three, and the article concludes in section four with a discussion of the relationship between the different types of cases Jolliffe handled: the manumission and inheritance cases discussed in the previous sections and the fugitive slave cases as demonstrated in the case of Margaret Garner.
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