Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ablavsky on the End of Native Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia

Gregory Ablavsky, a J.D./Ph.D. candidate at Penn, has posted Making Indians "White": The Judicial Abolition of Native Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia and its Racial Legacy, which is forthcoming as a comment in University of Pennsylvania Law Review 159 (1911): 1457-1531. Here is the abstract:
This article traces the history of a series of “freedom suits” brought by Virginia slaves between 1772 and 1806, in which the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia judicially abolished nearly two centuries of American Indian slavery in the colony by ruling that slaves who could prove maternal descent from Native Americans were prima facie free. Delving first into the legal history of Indian slavery in colonial America, it then examines the doctrinal shift that led the courts to redefine natives as unfit subjects for enslavement, and argues that its roots lie in a racialization of slavery that separated Africans from Natives. The final section explores the national legacy of these rulings, tracing the spread of these legal principles throughout the antebellum United States and discussing how the racial ideology that divided Native Americans and African-Americans continues to pose legal hurdles in contemporary Indian law cases involving tribal recognition and the Cherokee freedmen.


Shag from Brookline said...

I recall reading somewhere that back in the early days of the colonies, the use of slaves was not limited to Africans, that there were white slaves and Indian slaves as well. But the slave masters realized they had better "inventory" control with Africans for obvious colorful reasons as the white slaves could more readily escape and avoid recapture; that Indian slaves were so knowledgable of the landscape that their escapes would be relatively easy and then they would have the benefit of Indian tribes to protect them, whereas Africans lacked a similar benefit. Can you direct me to writings on this?

courthouseguy said...

The author credits George Mason with being the attorney in Robin v. Hardaway. George Mason was not an attorney much less an attorney before the General Court of Virginia. The Mason in question was Thompson Mason who was an General Court attorney and brother to George Mason, author of Virginia's Declaration of Rights. Other than that, this is very solid work.