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Litigating Across the Color LineCivil Cases Between Black and White Southerners from the End of Slavery to Civil Rights$
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Melissa Milewski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190249182

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190249182.001.0001

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(p.20) Prologue
Litigating Across the Color Line

Melissa Milewski

Oxford University Press

The Prologue traces African Americans’ experiences with the law and the courts in the antebellum South. It shows the ways in which the law upheld the system of slavery and worked to characterize enslaved men and women as property rather than as people. At times, though, slaves could participate in the legal system as criminal defendants or as they litigated freedom suits. Free people of color, too, appealed to the law to challenge the constraints imposed upon them. The experiences of enslaved and free African Americans in the antebellum South gave them an appreciation of the power of the law, leading them to fight to gain full legal rights after the Civil War.

Keywords:   Slave, law, justice, antebellum, South, court, slavery, free black, African American, trial

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