794 Slavery and the Law

The laws of slavery defined property in people, governed the relations between slaveholders and the enslaved and between the enslaved and non-slaveholders, and codified the conditions under which enslaved people could live, be manumitted, or become free.  This seminar is concerned with how the law created, addressed, and sustained the category of “slave,” how the courts interpreted the laws of slavery, and how the status of slave was determined in everyday social life. It looks at the structures and practices of law that codified the ownership of property in human beings, their evolution across time and space, the interaction of law, slavery and race, specifically the production of racial slavery. It examines how enslaved and free black people interacted with the law, including initiatives by enslaved people to secure freedom and citizenship rights in the courts.  The course emphasizes close readings of primary documents—including congressional and state legislation, trial transcripts, appellate opinions, treatises, and codes—and books and journal articles by legal scholars and historians. Beginning with the adoption of slavery in the 16th century Atlantic world, it traces slavery’s evolution on the North American continent and concludes with the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Seminar
Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law

Spring 2023

2023
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

794.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Thavolia Glymph M 4:00 PM - 5:50 PM 3171

The laws of slavery defined property in people, governed the relations between slaveholders and the enslaved and between the enslaved and non-slaveholders, and codified the conditions under which enslaved people could live, be manumitted, or become free.  This seminar is concerned with how the law created, addressed, and sustained the category of “slave,” how the courts interpreted the laws of slavery, and how the status of slave was determined in everyday social life. It looks at the structures and practices of law that codified the ownership of property in human beings, their evolution across time and space, the interaction of law, slavery and race, specifically the production of racial slavery. It examines how enslaved and free black people interacted with the law, including initiatives by enslaved people to secure freedom and citizenship rights in the courts.  The course emphasizes close readings of primary documents—including congressional and state legislation, trial transcripts, appellate opinions, treatises, and codes—and books and journal articles by legal scholars and historians. Beginning with the adoption of slavery in the 16th century Atlantic world, it traces slavery’s evolution on the North American continent and concludes with the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2018

2018
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

794.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Thavolia Glymph M 2:00-3:50 PM 4045

This course will explore the ways in which the institution of slavery interacted with the law in the United States and how the law defined freedom and the practices of freedom.  The first two weeks will focus on slavery and the law.  The rest of the course will focus on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. For added credit, students may satisfy the writing requirement by enrolling in Law 794W. 

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2017

2017
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

794.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Rebecca Scott M 2:00-3:50 PM 3171

In this seminar we explore the ways in which slavery, long defined in the Americas as the ownership of property in human beings, interacted with the structures and practices of law across multiple jurisdictions, including the United States, the French colonial Caribbean, and British West Africa. We will examine how law addressed the category of “slave” and codified the power of slave owners, and how those held as slaves interacted with legal institutions and practices, both civil and criminal. We will also ask when and whether that law sometimes provided a means by which to exit the status of slave and find formal freedom.

 

In two sessions near the end of the semester we will discuss contemporary slavery and human trafficking, and explore legal strategies that have been employed to combat such practices, including the use of domestic criminal and labor law (in Brazil and the United States), and international law (particularly in the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, and in the European Court of Human Rights).

Pre/Co-requisites
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.