Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones [Part 2]

Posted in Audio, Forthcoming Media, History, Interviews, Law, Live Events, Slavery, United States on 2014-05-08 00:10Z by Steven

Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones [Part 2]

Research at the National Archives & Beyond
Blogtalk Radio
2014-05-08, 21:00 EDT (2014-05-09, 02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts

Join Author Bernie D. Jones for an engaging discussion about her book – Fathers of Conscience – Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South.

Fathers of Conscience examines high-court decisions in the antebellum South that involved wills in which white male planters bequeathed property, freedom, or both to women of color and their mixed-race children. These men, whose wills were contested by their white relatives, had used trusts and estates law to give their slave partners and children official recognition and thus circumvent the law of slavery. The will contests that followed determined whether that elevated status would be approved or denied by courts of law.

For more information, click here.

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Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Law, Live Events, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2012-11-04 23:16Z by Steven

Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones

Research at the National Archives & Beyond
Blogtalk Radio
2012-11-08, 21:00 EST (2012-11-09, 02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Co-Host

Natonne Elaine Kemp, Co-Host

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts

Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South

Bernice Bennett and Natonne Elaine Kemp welcome author Bernie D. Jones for an engaging discussion about her book—Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South. Jones is Associate Professor, Suffolk University Law School.  She is a graduate of the New York University Law School and the University of Virginia Department of History.

Fathers of Conscience examines high-court decisions in the antebellum South that involved wills in which white male planters bequeathed property, freedom, or both to women of color and their mixed-race children. These men, whose wills were contested by their white relatives, had used trusts and estates law to give their slave partners and children official recognition and thus circumvent the law of slavery. The will contests that followed determined whether that elevated status would be approved or denied by courts of law.

For more information, click here.

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Just Finished Reading: Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2012-04-28 17:29Z by Steven

Just Finished Reading: Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South

Random Thoughts on History: My musings on American, African American, Southern, Civil War, Reconstruction, and Public History topics and books.
2012-04-17

Tim Talbott
Frankfort, Kentucky

The practice of slavery created many complications. Not the least of these were the children produced by relationships between slave owners and their female property. Certainly many of these associations were forced, as they were the creation of an unequal power relationship, but possibly others evolved into a more common law-type bond. Whatever the union between slave and owner, it is obvious that a number of these slaveholders felt an obligation to their mixed-race offspring, and sometimes toward the mothers, in that they sometimes left wills freeing and providing them with property or monetary gifts.

Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South, by Dr. Bernie D. Jones, a law professor at Suffolk University who earned her PhD in history at the University of Virginia, explores a number of the court cases in which the wills of slaveowners who made provisions for their mixed-race children were contested, most often by the white members of the owners’ families.

Jones explains that interracial relationships were tolerated in the Old South so long as they remained secret and hidden. When owners took measures to provide for their illegitimate children and their slave mothers is often when things got problematical. Judges often had to decide whether to respect the desires of the deceased owner or face a potentially hostile community who did not want free blacks in their neighborhoods. The author contends that judges that decided these cases normally described the men in these illicit relationships as three types; as “righteous fathers” who were attempting to right a wrong, “vulnerable old men” who had been duped or seduced by their slave women in order to receive favorable treatment, or “degraded creatures” who deserved no respect for destroying community norms…

Read the entire review here.

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Southern Free Women of Color In the Antebellum North: Race, Class, and a “New Women’s Legal History”

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2012-01-10 05:50Z by Steven

Southern Free Women of Color In the Antebellum North: Race, Class, and a “New Women’s Legal History”

Akron Law Review
Volume 41, 1Number 3 (2007-2008)
pages 763-798

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University

  • I. Configuring Race, Gender, and Class in American Legal History
  • II. African-American Women in the Antebellum United States: Enslaved and Free Women Facing the Law
  • III. Formulating an Abolitionist Law Practice: John Jolliffe
  • IV. Conclusion

In thinking about the status of Southern slave women newly freed in the antebellum North, it is important to think about the ways in which they experienced race, gender, and class. According to Deborah Gray White, “[they] were slaves because they were black, and even more than sex, color was the absolute determinant of class in antebellum America.”1 These women were “[black] in a white society, slave in a free society, woman in a society ruled by men [as] female slaves [they] had the least formal power and were perhaps the most vulnerable group of antebellum Americans.” This was their reality, as a result of cultural and social practices founded in law. Legal elites developed as far back as the colonial period, a law of slavery based upon hierarchical notions of humanity seen as “natural.” Blacks were inferior to whites, and it was natural that they should be enslaved, as a matter of organic law. Southern social and economic demands necessitated this legal order.

In order to conceptualize race, gender, and class in American legal history today, it is important, first of all, to explain and discuss these topics within the contours of American legal thought. Race, gender, and class can be indicators of hierarchy and status in American society, especially when they are modulated through the institutional practices of politics and law. Within the realm of American legal thought over the past century, though, American lawyers have struggled with the extent to which they believed the law was indeed about power and politics. The following diagram, figure 1, “American Legal Thought, Late 19th Century into Today,” lists the various schools of thought which have been significant, and demonstrates the relationships among them…

…If anything, the Black laws indicate further the significance of race and class in “women’s legal history,” highlighting the ways in which black women could be disempowered as a matter of law. Mixed-race slave women were not always privileged by their ties to whiteness. If they had been enslaved, they could be returned to slavery if the relatives who owned them would deny them freedom, and when they were “free people of color,” they could be denied access to public education if they did not look “white enough.” A light-skinned mixed-race slave woman, Matilda Lawrence, from Missouri, accompanied her slave owner father in 1836 on trips into the North. She expressed an interest in becoming free, but he refused to manumit her. Easily passing as a white woman, she escaped into Cincinnati and found employment. Her father hired a professional slave catcher to capture her. Upon being apprehended, she was charged as a fugitive under the Act of 1793, and eventually removed from Cincinnati.

Not only did the Black laws threaten blacks’ interest in freedom and escaping from slavery, but it also denied them the chance to have their children educated in the public schools. These were for white children only. Thus, black children were to be educated privately. But those mixed-race black children who appeared “white” could go to school with whites, as happened in the case of the Williams family, headed by an octoroon man married to a white woman. He was of 1/8 black ancestry—one of his eight great-grandparents was black. Socially, the couple was taken to be white by all who knew them, but when they hoped to enroll their children in a local public school, they were barred, until the Ohio Supreme Court clarified what it meant to be “white.” Whiteness was not limited to ancestry, but to appearance. The children appeared white, their parents lived in a white world; for the purposes of school enrollment, the children were white.

The cases brought by formerly enslaved free women of color and their children for inheritances did not involve the drama of communities caught between abolitionist fervor and pro-slavery sentiment as found in the fugitive slave cases and the earlier cases which challenged the Black laws. It is of great significance, then, that these cases escaped the public scrutiny that the other cases generated, and as a result, have not been the focus of scholarly inquiry. They provide, however, another view of what abolitionist law practice entailed. The women were struggling to be defined as “free.” State institutions in their home states had carefully defined and proscribed definitions of “family” which did not include them. The relatives of the white men to whom they had biological ties never saw them as “family,” but saw them instead as property to be owned. Thus, lawyers and testators had to be resourceful at using legal institutions and doctrines…

Read the entire article here.

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Righteous Fathers, Vulnerable Old Men and Degraded Creatures: Southern Justices on Miscegenation in the Antebellum Will Contest

Posted in History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2010-09-14 22:20Z by Steven

Righteous Fathers, Vulnerable Old Men and Degraded Creatures: Southern Justices on Miscegenation in the Antebellum Will Contest

Tulsa Law Review
Volume 40 (2005)
pages 699-

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University

Although scholars have long addressed the role of legislators and local elites in policing the color line between black and white, antebellum jurists hearing will contests also played a special role, different from the roles they played in miscegenation prosecutions, but just as effective, nonetheless. State court justices, who heard cases involving bequests to the putative slave children of slaveholding elite men, exercised their power to police by deciding when the color line had been breached. In those cases, miscegenation between white men and slave women or free women of color was not the problem, however. Instead, the color line was breached in those cases when white men recognized and accorded slave women and their mixed-race children status through manumission and property. Official recognition by white relatives meant access to whiteness. Black personal freedom, combined with access to money and land, were threats to the social order of slavery and white supremacy. Free blacks were deemed uncontrollable and arrogant, particularly when they had money. They were perceived as a bad influence upon the bonded. In the eyes of many jurists, wealthy free black status was to be denied at all costs, for the benefit of the white social order, and the white relatives or creditors seeking to establish their claim to the decedent’s estate.

In this article, I explore the attitudes of antebellum jurists towards slavery, miscegenation, and the transfer of property from elite white men to black slave women, free women of color, and their mixed-race children, as found in antebellum will contests. This article is a historical study, in which I do a case-by-case analysis and categorization of the language used by state high court justices of the South in describing the white men who left wills that gave property to black women and their children. Although these cases have been studied by historians and legal scholars in other contexts, reading these cases for the purpose of discovering judicial narratives on miscegenation has not been the focus on inquiry. As a result, scholarship on the full flavor of judicial responses to slavery is missing.

Read the entire article here.

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Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-08-30 01:29Z by Steven

Fathers of Conscience: Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South

University Of Georgia Press
February 2009
216 pages
6 x 9 in.
ISBN: 0820332518 (paper), 0820329800 (cloth)

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University

How the courts dealt with wills bequeathing property or freedom to mixed race children.

Fathers of Conscience examines high-court decisions in the antebellum South that involved wills in which white male planters bequeathed property, freedom, or both to women of color and their mixed-race children. These men, whose wills were contested by their white relatives, had used trusts and estates law to give their slave partners and children official recognition and thus circumvent the law of slavery. The will contests that followed determined whether that elevated status would be approved or denied by courts of law.

Bernie D. Jones argues that these will contests indicated a struggle within the elite over race, gender, and class issues-over questions of social mores and who was truly family. Judges thus acted as umpires after a man’s death, deciding whether to permit his attempts to provide for his slave partner and family. Her analysis of these differing judicial opinions on inheritance rights for slave partners makes an important contribution to the literature on the law of slavery in the United States.

Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction. Inheritance Rights in the Antebellum South
  • Chapter One. Righteous Fathers, Vulnerable Old Men, and Degraded Creatures
  • Chapter Two. Slavery, Freedom, and the Rule of Law
  • Chapter Three. Justice and Mercy in the Kentucky Court of Appeals
  • Chapter Four. Circling the Wagons and Clamping Down: The Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals
  • Chapter Five. The People of Barnwell against the Supreme Court of South Carolina: The Case of Elijah Willis
  • Conclusion. The Law’s Paradox of Property and Power: The Significance of Geography
  • Appendix One. Case Indexes
  • Appendix Two. Opinions on the Emancipation of Slaves during George Robertson’s Tenure as Chief Justice
  • Appendix Three. Supplementary Information Regarding Willis v. Jolliffe
  • Notes
  • Bibliographic essay
  • Index
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