Unfinished Freedom: Slavery and Citizenship in Post-Emancipation Southern Courts, 1865-1896
My dissertation tells the story of legal Reconstruction in the post Civil War American South. Specifically, I examine post-emancipation slave cases. These cases involved slavery and slave law but were not decided until after the Thirteenth Amendment legally abolished the peculiar institution. I analyze the ways in which black and white litigants, their attorneys, and state judges confronted an uncertain legal landscape that had been fundamentally changed by the Civil War. The ways these men and women shaped the post-bellum legal order and the impact that they had on their own individual futures, on the South, and on the American legal tradition more generally, has not been included in traditional treatments of Reconstruction. I intend my work to address this missing historiographical element, and expand our understanding of the legacies of slavery and the multiple meanings of post-bellum freedom.