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A Legal History of MississippiRace, Class, and the Struggle for Opportunity$
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Joseph A. Ranney

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781496822574

Published to University Press of Mississippi: January 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496822574.001.0001

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Prescribed Spheres: The Legal Path of Slavery in Mississippi

Prescribed Spheres: The Legal Path of Slavery in Mississippi

(p.35) Chapter Two Prescribed Spheres: The Legal Path of Slavery in Mississippi
A Legal History of Mississippi

Joseph A. Ranney

University Press of Mississippi

Slavery was a cornerstone of antebellum Mississippi life, and legal controversies over slavery regularly roiled the state. In the 1840s, planter Isaac Ross’s desire to free his slaves sparked a dispute between Mississippi’s legislature and supreme court whether slave owners should be allowed to manumit (free) their slaves at all. The court held that Mississippi law preserved a small opening for freedom but as war approached in the late 1850s the court changed its mind. Mississippi slave law was harsh: it allowed slaves small personal and economic liberties and the right to a trial if they were accused of crime, but it was highly effective in preserving black subservience and white control. The chapter provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the planters, slaves and free black Mississippians who helped shape slave law.

Keywords:   Mississippi, Slavery, Planters, Free blacks, Manumission

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