A Question of Freedom

Shopping Cart Notice

In order to purchase a book title from our shopping cart you must download and install the Mozilla Firefox browser. If you're unable to download and install Firefox, you may also place your order directly from our fulfillment warehouse, Triliteral, by calling 1-800-405-1619. If you have received a promotional code for an event or conference purchase, please mention it when placing your order.
 
Please note that the Triliteral Call Center is open Monday thru Friday, 9 am to 5 pm EST. Due to the influx of calls, wait times may be longer than usual. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.

The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War

William G. Thomas III

View Inside Format: Hardcover
Price: $35.00
YUP
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

The story of the longest and most complex legal challenge to slavery in American history

“A revelatory and fluidly written chronicle. . . . An essential account of an overlooked chapter in the history of American slavery."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital.  
 
Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, William Thomas tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families (the Butlers, Queens, Mahoneys, and others), their lawyers (among them a young Francis Scott Key), and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. A Question of Freedom asks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies in the present day.

William G. Thomas III is the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska. He was co-founder and director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia.

“Here is a strikingly original, eloquent, and humane book on an inhumane institution. The story restores the names and histories of people who fought for freedom for generations.”—Edward Ayers, author of The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America

“In A Question of Freedom, historian William Thomas brings to light the truly remarkable and largely forgotten efforts of people held in bondage to sue for their freedom in the courts of the early United States. A genuine contribution to the social, legal, and political history of American slavery, this is a book of great depth and insight.”—Adam Rothman, historian and curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive

“With its vivid narration, revelatory research, careful contextualization, and bracing honesty, A Question of Freedom demonstrates that freedom suits were not isolated episodes but instead a major form of slave resistance, with far-reaching and ongoing effects in the long freedom struggle. This book is essential reading for understanding the history of slavery and the modern debate over reparations.”—Elizabeth R. Varon, author of Armies of Deliverance:  A New History of the Civil War

"William Thomas has produced an important and astonishing chronicle of the legal battles waged by enslaved people for their own freedom. Braiding white-knuckle courtroom drama together with a searing exploration of his own family history, he redefines slavery’s place in early American law—not an inherent feature, but a dubious institution whose contradictions were exploited by the enslaved to protect themselves and their families.”—Yoni Appelbaum, Senior Editor, The Atlantic
ISBN: 9780300234121
Publication Date: November 24, 2020
432 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
28 b/w illus.
The Iron Way

Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America

William G. Thomas

View details