328 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 13 halftones, 1 map, appends., notes, bibl., index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3643-6
Published: February 2018
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3645-0
Published: January 2018
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5915-2
Published: February 2020
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Awards & distinctions
2018 James H. Broussard Best First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
Co-Winner of the 2019 J. Willard Hurst Prize, Law & Society Association
2018 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History, Langum Charitable Trust
2019 Vanderbilt University Chancellor's Award for Research
To understand their success, Welch argues that we must understand the language that they used--the language of property, in particular--to make their claims recognizable and persuasive to others and to link their status as owner to the ideal of a free, autonomous citizen. In telling their stories, Welch reveals a previously unknown world of black legal activity, one that is consequential for understanding the long history of race, rights, and civic inclusion in America.
About the Author
Kimberly M. Welch is assistant professor of history and law at Vanderbilt University.
For more information about Kimberly M. Welch, visit the Author Page.
“A remarkably well-researched and truly startling history.”--Journal of American History
“Anyone who reads Welch’s work will be richly rewarded.” --Canadian Journal of History
“Kimberly Welch has done a remarkable job piecing together a rich set of stories from these evasive texts and artifacts, bringing to life the world of ordinary people who were able to use the courts in extraordinary ways.”—Ariela Gross, author of What Blood Won’t Tell
“In this compelling, carefully researched book, Welch uses local court records to uncover the ways in which black litigants in the antebellum South advanced claims to legal personhood. The prevailing sanctity of private property created space within which they could seek loan repayment, wages due, inheritance, and sometimes even freedom, despite the fact that granting such claims to black litigants could undermine white supremacy. Written with a light touch and telling detail, this landmark study of race and law introduces us to men and women of African descent who took their white neighbors to court to assert rights they insisted should be respected.”--Rebecca J. Scott, coauthor of Freedom Papers
“Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South challenges our understandings of the relationship between black people and the law in the antebellum South. Welch gives us a more complete picture of the black legal experience in civil--not criminal--litigation, where property rights precede and function as civil rights in the 1800s. Building on the strength of new approaches to the litigiousness and advocacy among peoples of African descent, Welch has written a deeply researched book that will engage scholars across the Americas.”--Michelle McKinley, University of Oregon