Much of the current reassessment of race, culture, and
criminal justice in the nineteenth-century South has been based on
intensive community studies. Drawing on previously untapped
sources, the nine original papers collected here represent some of
the best new work on how racial justice can be shaped by the
particulars of time and place.
Although each essay is anchored in the local, several important
larger themes emerge across the volume--such as the importance of
personality and place, the movement of former slaves from the
capriciousness of "plantation justice" to the (theoretically) more
evenhanded processes of the courts, and the increased presence of
government in daily aspects of American life.
Local Matters cites a wide range of examples to support
these themes. One essay considers the case of a quasi-free slave in
Natchez, Mississippi--himself a slaveowner--who was "reined in" by
his master through the courts, while another shows how federal aims
were subverted during trials held in the aftermath of the 1876 race
riots in Ellenton, South Carolina. Other topics covered include the
fear of black criminality as a motivation of Klan activity; the
career of Thomas Ruffin, slaveowner and North Carolina Supreme
Court Justice; blacks and the ballot in Washington County, Texas;
the overturned murder conviction of a North Carolina slave who had
killed a white man; the formation of a powerful white bloc in
Vicksburg, Mississippi; agitation by black and white North Carolina
women for greater protections from abusive white male elites; and
slaves, crime, and the common law in New Orleans.
Together, these studies offer new insights into the nature of
law and the fate of due process at different stages of a highly
Subjects: Law, Sociology
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