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).
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