Redemption Songs: Courtroom Stories of Slavery

Hardcover | September 10, 2014

byLea Vandervelde

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There is no more legendary case in American legal history than Dred Scott v. Sanford. An extraordinary example of a slave suing his master for freedom, it led to a devastating pro-slavery ruling by Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Supreme Court and helped precipitate the Civil War. But was itso remarkable? Did others fight for liberty in court?In Redemption Songs, legal scholar Lea VanderVelde unearths the astonishing history of how slaves challenged the "peculiar institution" with that most American of weapons, litigation. The author, together with Missouri's state archivist and other researchers, found roughly 300 "freedom suits" filedin St. Louis between 1814 and 1860. More than 100 ended with the words, "Plaintiff be liberated and entirely set free from the defendant." Slaves based their claims on four grounds: they were Native Americans, previously had been free, had lived in free territory, or had a free mother. VanderVelde selects a dozen lawsuits from across this period for close examination; each opens a window on a closed world of oppression-and defiance. Here, for example, is the saga of Moses Shipman; freed by Revolutionary War veteran David Shipman, he fled from Kentucky to Illinois in the 1820s, waskidnapped with his family, and dragged back to St. Louis. Here, too, is the story of Leah Charleville, a wily survivor living in a shadowy world of illegality, playing off two free black men as her lovers and hosting a ring of thieves at her boarding house. Savvy in the ways of the law, she went tocourt four times, securing freedom for herself and her children. With deep appreciation for the courage required for a slave to challenge a master in court, VanVelde reshapes our understanding of border-state slavery and the impact of the seemingly powerless on American law.

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There is no more legendary case in American legal history than Dred Scott v. Sanford. An extraordinary example of a slave suing his master for freedom, it led to a devastating pro-slavery ruling by Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Supreme Court and helped precipitate the Civil War. But was itso remarkable? Did others fight for liberty ...

Lea VanderVelde is Professor of Law at the University of Iowa and author of Mrs. Dred Scott.

other books by Lea Vandervelde

Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:September 10, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199927294

ISBN - 13:9780199927296

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Table of Contents

1. How frontier slaves came to be entitled to lawyers.2. How it came about that a Native American pedigree meant freedom: Celeste's extended family.3. John Merry a/k/a Jean Marie: Redemption over and over again.4. The children of Canadienne Rose5. Winny, the Mother of Frontier Redemptions6. The Duncan Brothers in Black and White7. The Mass Kidnapping of Lydia's Children8. Masters, Lovers, Husbands, Mates, Both Black and Whitea. Betrayal and Deceit: Eliza Tyler's redemptionb. Devotion and Death: Maria Whiten's redemptionc. The Prerogative of One's Master to Change His Mind? Hester Norcom's redemption9. The Slaves of Milton Duty10. David Shipman's Fidelity to the Spirit of Liberty11. Mr. and Mrs. Dred Scott: Taking it to the federal level- If a slave litigates on the frontier does it make any sound?