794.01 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.

Spring 2023

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Reflective Writing
Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
Oral presentation
Class participation
Thavolia Glymph
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW-794-01-Sp23
Email list: LAW-794-01-Sp23@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Requirements - Public Interest
Course Areas of Practice