Cover

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

Thanking everyone who helped me to complete this project is a daunting task. This journey began many years ago, and I fear I will forget to mention someone. Still, I will try my best to extend my gratitude to all those who have guided me to this point. I must begin by thanking my ...

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Introduction: Imagining Freedom in the Slave South

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pp. 1-18

Sometime between 1800 and 1820, a black female Charlestonian by the name of Catherine petitioned the South Carolina General Assembly and asked the assemblymen to ratify her freedom. Originally the enslaved laborer of one Peter Catanet, Catherine was sold to a man named Dr. Plumeau for $300, “a sum ...

PART I: GLIMPSING FREEDOM

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1. City of Contrasts: Charleston before the Civil War

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pp. 21-35

White visitors arriving in Charleston in the mid- nineteenth century found themselves alternately fascinated, shocked, perplexed, and repulsed. As they disembarked onto docks teeming with black men hauling cargo, and pushed their way past dozens of black female vendors like Mary Purvis, selling everything ...

PART II: BUILDING FREEDOM

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2. A Way Out of No Way: Black Women and Manumission

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pp. 39-76

In 1814, Sophia Mauncaut, a resident of Charleston, was accused by authorities of being an illegally freed black woman. With the threat of reenslavement hanging over her head, Sophia escaped the auction block by acquiring affidavits from four white Charlestonians, all of whom vouched that she was legally free. ...

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3. To Survive and Thrive: Race, Sex, and Waged Labor in the City

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pp. 77-112

In the spring of 1835, Charlestonian Dye Mathews lost her husband of many years. A free man of color and an artisan, George Mathews left an estate that included his carpentry tools, a lot with several buildings on it located on Friend Street, and five enslaved persons. It is not surprising that George bequeathed ...

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4. The Currency of Citizenship: Property Ownership and Black Female Freedom

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pp. 113-146

In 1857, Eliza Seymour Lee initiated a lawsuit against fellow Charlestonian Henry Gourdin. A respected businesswoman, Eliza and her husband, John, had owned the city’s two most illustrious hotels for decades, lodgings that catered to prominent whites from across the nation and around the world. By the 1850s, ...

PART III: EXPERIENCING FREEDOM

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5. A Tale of Two Women: The Lives of Cecille Cogdell and Sarah Sanders

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pp. 149-175

In 1831, Cecille Langlois Cogdell left her husband, Richard Walpole Cogdell, and moved out of the home they rented together on Broad Street. A middle-class matron and mother of five whose respectability had been demonstrated through her marriage, her church attendance, her ownership of enslaved ...

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6. A Fragile Freedom: The Story of Margaret Bettingall and Her Daughters

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pp. 176-202

In 1842, Barbara Tunno Barquet became ensnared in the legal battles of a wealthy South Carolina couple. That year, Elizabeth Heyward Hamilton, a member of a powerful planter family, sued her husband, James, for violating their marriage contract.1 Elizabeth brought an estate worth $100,000 into her marriage ...

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Epilogue: The Continuing Search for Freedom

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pp. 203-209

Free black life in the antebellum South has long been a topic of research among scholars. Despite the lengthy historiography of the field, however, the lives of free black women in the Old South have largely been relegated to the shadows. From their efforts to gain their freedom to their involvement in the marketplace ...

Notes

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pp. 211-248

Bibliography

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pp. 249-261

Index

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pp. 263-267