Arming Black America: Race and Citizenship in the Era of Dred Scott v. SandfordJones, Martha S - University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI - University of Michigan - Room 2022, 202 S. Thayer St.
The U.S. Supreme Courtís 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford has for too long served as a narrow window onto the citizenship of African Americans before the Civil War. The case itself has been scrupulously examined and the life of the Scott family has been dissected. Still, we know very little about how African Americans more generally navigated legal culture and the body politic in light of the notorious assertion that they were not citizens. What might we learn if we shifted our gaze away from high court proceedings and entered the local courthouse of the 1850? This essay examines applications for gun permits in the 1850s. Neither citizens nor denizens, African Americans crafted their place in antebellum legal culture through these meaning-laden encounters with jurists, lawyers, white witnesses, and the politics roiling just outside the court house door.
Martha S. Jones (associate professor of history and Afroamerican studies and visiting professor of law) directs the Law and Slavery and Freedom Project and is the author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900.
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