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Property law and the African-American

One of the enduring realities of genealogical research in the United States is how many of our ancestors’ lives were touched by the institution of slavery. Whether descended from slaves or — like The Legal Genealogist — from slaveowners, we all need to know more, understand more, put more into the context of the times, if we want to trace our roots through the records of that time.

This is a real issue for me, since I’ve only recently started coming to terms with my own family’s slaveholding past. And as I’ve begun to really delve into those records, the one striking — even jolting — characteristic that keeps coming up again and again is the issue of property.

Slaves weren’t treated by the law as people, but as property. And it was the law of property that was often used to try to keep freedmen from having options beyond field work even after emancipation — and even to steal the freedmen’s children back into a form of legal bondage because of their parents’ lack of property.

Clearly, from being treated as property to having their property stolen by those who used the law against the freedmen, African Americans’ experience at the courthouse had only one bright spot: it created records for the genealogist-descendants

And that’s the subject we’re going to explore next Thursday night, December 20th, when I join Bernice Bennett, host of BlogTalkRadio’s Research at the National Archives & Beyond, for Property Rights and Wrongs: African-Americans at the Courthouse.

This internet-based broadcast is free, there’s no need to register in advance, and you don’t need any special software or hardware to listen in. You can even join in the discussion and ask questions live, or type them into a chat box if you’re not comfortable being on air.

It’s a one-hour show, and we’ll get underway at 9 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. CST / 7 p.m. MST / 6 p.m. PST. And, like all of Bernice’s broadcasts (check ’em out!), it’s recorded so you can listen in at another time if your schedule doesn’t let you listen to it live.

Hope you can join me and Bernice Bennett next Thursday, December 20.

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