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The material conditions of the years between 1800 and 1830 rendered Black authors and much of African American literature “out of bounds.” Contributors engage literature by people of African descent outside of slavery’s fetters, or Black cultural producers creating work deemed untoward, or literatures developed outside the covers of bound books. In this period, the idea of Black literature was plagued not only by prohibitions on literacy and circumscription on Black people’s mobility, but also by ambivalence about what in fact would have been acceptable public discourse for people of African descent. This volume explores African American literature that elided the suppression of African American thought by directly confronting the urgencies of the moment, especially themes related to the pursuit and the experience of freedom. Transitions in the social, political, and cultural conditions of the decades in question show themselves in literary production at the turn of the nineteenth century. This volume focuses on transitions in organizational life (section 1), in mobility (section 2), in print circulation (section 3), and in visual culture (section 4).
This chapter surveys the historical, political, and legal problems confronting the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment. It describes the antebellum debate over whether free blacks were "citizens of the United States" entitled to comity rights, the travails of abolitionists, the rampant private violence and mob rule and inadequate protection of the laws, and the abridgment of the civil rights of the newly freed people in the infamous Black Codes.
The Introduction outlines the argument of the book and its methodology, distinguishing the more reliable "language of the law" originalism from less reliable versions that rely too much on legislative history or antislavery constitutional thinkers. Using this methodology, the book will show that the key provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment's first section had well-established antebellum legal meanings that chart a satisfactory middle course between interpretations that rely on what people thought in 1868 and those that allow judges to pour into the text their own extratextual values.
In The Second Founding: An Introduction to the Fourteenth Amendment, Ilan Wurman provides an illuminating introduction to the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment's famous provisions 'due process of law,' 'equal protection of the laws,' and the 'privileges' or 'immunities' of citizenship. He begins by exploring the antebellum legal meanings of these concepts, starting from Magna Carta, the Statutes of Edward III, and the Petition of Right to William Blackstone and antebellum state court cases. The book then traces how these concepts solved historical problems confronting framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, including the comity rights of free blacks, private violence and the denial of the protection of the laws, and the notorious abridgment of freedmen's rights in the Black Codes. Wurman makes a compelling case that, if the modern originalist Supreme Court interpreted the Amendment in 'the language of the law,' it would lead to surprising and desirable results today.
The Conclusion revisits some of the book’s main arguments and notes that although, by the mid-nineteenth century, Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana were mature slave societies, their racial orders differed in consequential ways. In most parts of Virginia and Louisiana blackness was almost coterminous with enslavement: an enslaved person could live his entire life without ever meeting a free person of color. This was virtually impossible in Cuba, where free people of color represented a significant proportion of the total population. The link between whiteness and citizenship did not crystallize in the same way in Cuba. A free person of color in Cuba could be a rights-bearing subject, participate in public life, and marry across racial lines; on the eve of the Civil War, a person of color in Virginia or Louisiana could do none of those things. Laws regulating free people of color also served as a template for post-emancipation societies seeking ways to degrade black people. Slavery laws did not translate forward in the same way that regulations based on race did.
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