Slaves as Refugees and the Laws of War: Gender, Race, and the origins of human rights law in the U.S.

What does the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) have to do with the problem of women and children refugees, questions of statelessness, forced labor, wartime atrocities, human rights, refugee camps, and the history of surveillance and containment?

In this class, we will examine these questions in relation to the destruction of slavery and the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello) in the Civil War, focusing on enslaved and freed women and children who became wartime refugees. We will study and analyze the humanitarian and legal issues that arose in response to their flight and the establishment and management of refugee camps across the South. In the absence of the Geneva Accords of 1949 and the additional UN Protocols at the center of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), how did the U.S. respond to this refugee problem? What rights did congressional law, executive and war department decrees, and the Lieber Code allow and disallow? The study of black refugees and the establishment of refugee camps in the Civil War raise new questions about the origins of refugee and human rights law and the construction of human rights archives.

The larger objective of the course is to place the story of black refugees in the Civil War within the broader context of refugee studies, human rights, and the law.
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Course Frequency*: 
Course Learning Outcomes: 
(a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law


*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.