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Double Character : Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom - Ariela Julie Gross

Double Character

Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom

Hardcover Published: 19th November 2000
ISBN: 9780691059570
Number Of Pages: 280

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In a groundbreaking study of the day-to-day law and culture of slavery, Ariela Gross investigates the local courtrooms of the Deep South where ordinary people settled their disputes over slaves. Buyers sued sellers for breach of warranty when they considered slaves to be physically or morally defective; owners sued supervisors who whipped or neglected slaves under their care. "Double Character" seeks to explain how communities dealt with an important dilemma raised by these trials: how could slaves who acted as moral agents be treated as commodities? Because these cases made the character of slaves a central legal question, slaves' moral agency intruded into the courtroom, often challenging the character of slaveholders who saw themselves as honorable masters. Gross looks at the stories about white and black character that witnesses and litigants put forth in court. She not only reveals the role of law in constructing "race" but also offers a portrait of the culture of slavery, one that addresses historical debates about law, honor, and commerce in the American South.

Gross maintains that witnesses and litigants drew on narratives available in the culture at large to explain the nature and origins of slaves' character, such as why slaves became runaways. But the legal process also shaped their expressions of racial ideology by favoring certain explanations over others. "Double Character" brings to life the law as a dramatic ritual in people's daily lives, looking at trials from the perspective of litigants, lawyers, doctors, and the slaves themselves. The author's approach combines the methods of cultural anthropology, quantitative social history, and critical race theory.

Industry Reviews

"A nuanced and elegant interpretation of antebellum Southern law."--Virginia Quarterly Review "Double Character is an exemplar of how detailed research and theoretical sophistication can be combined. Few writers are as at home as Gross with handling both large databases and complex cultural theories."--Philip Abbott, The Historian

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 3
Court and Marketp. 22
Honor and Dishonorp. 47
Slaves' Characterp. 72
Masters' Characterp. 98
Body and Mind 122
Epiloguep. 153
Appendix: Note on Sources and Methodsp. 159
Notesp. 167
Bibliographyp. 231
Indexp. 251
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691059570
ISBN-10: 0691059578
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 280
Published: 19th November 2000
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.16 x 16.15  x 2.34
Weight (kg): 0.55