Readings for April 8

As we saw in our Readings for April 3 and in our Wednesday Workshops, property and property rights were sites of conflict in the mid-nineteenth-century United States. Our own notions of property and what can be property are also difficult to square with some of the sources we read. “Property” has a history, and your readings for Monday will examine that story in the context of the Civil War era.

  • Dylan Penningroth, “Slavery, Freedom, and Social Claims to Property among African Americans in Liberty County, Georgia, 1850-1880,” Journal of American History 84, no. 2 (1997), 405–435, link to article
  • James L. Huston, “Property Rights in Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War,” Journal of Southern History 65, no. 2 (1999), 249–286, link to article

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Be prepared to discuss and summarize the arguments of these articles in class on Monday. As you read, you should also consider these questions, which build upon Wednesday’s readings:

  1. Did Penningroth’s article change your thinking about Nancy Johnson’s case? How was it possible for Johnson to say, “I was well to do before the war”?
  2. Many of your Wednesday Reports commented on Lincoln’s surprising decision to overturn an emancipation proclamation by one of his generals in 1862. Does Huston’s explanation of the coming of the Civil War shed any light on Lincoln’s decision or objectives, or do those objectives challenge Huston’s claims? Why would Lincoln, a Republican, propose the necessity of compensated, gradual emancipation?