- Vagabonds and Paupers: Race and Illicit Mobility in the Early Republic
- Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 83, Number 4, Autumn 2016
- p. pp. 443-469
- View Citation
In the early republic, Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region was a vital space for wanderers, runaways, and migrants. Both under the law as well as on the road, fugitive slaves, pauper migrants, and vagrants shared much by way of identity and occupation. This article considers three key components of this relationship: legal connections that limited the movements of these groups, inherently similar corporeal experiences of transient poverty, and linkage in the public mind. Charting the transiency that former slaves and servants often undertook after leaving bondage reinforces these similarities, especially in light of contemporary associations between race and transiency and the subsequent criminalization of the freedom of movement for persons of color in varying stages of freedom. The imposition of personal status inherent in the category of vagrancy is illustrated in the ways in which individuals defined their own identities and were defined by the laws they encountered.