NEITHER NORTHERN NOR SOUTHERN: THE POLITICS OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN PHILADELPHIA, 1820-1847
|Isenberg, Andrew C. (Andrew Christian)
|This dissertation examines the conflict over slavery and freedom in Philadelphia from 1820 to 1847. As the northernmost southern city in a state that bordered three slave states, Philadelphia maintained a long tradition of abolitionism and fugitive slave activity. Conflicts that arose over fugitive slaves and the kidnapping of free African-Americans forced Philadelphians to confront the politics of slavery. This dissertation argues that until 1847, Pennsylvania was in effect a slave state. The work of proslavery groups, namely slave masters, their agents, white and black kidnappers, and local, state, and national political supporters, undermined the ostensible successes of state laws designed to protect the freedom of African-Americans in Pennsylvania. Commonly referred to as “liberty laws,” this legislation exposed the inherent difficulty in determining the free or enslaved status of not only fugitive slaves but also African-American kidnapping victims. By studying the specific fugitive or kidnapping cases that inspired these liberty laws, one finds that time and again African-Americans and their allies forced white politicians to grapple with the reality that Pennsylvania was not a safe-haven for African-Americans, regardless of their condition of bondage or freedom. Furthermore, these cases often precipitated into desperate rescues and bloody riots on the streets of Philadelphia; these civil wars in miniature reflected the negotiated and compromised realities of living while black in the city. Ordinary African-Americans living in Philadelphia bore the burden of comity, or friendly relations between states, by practicing what I term “street diplomacy”: the up-close and personal struggles over freedom and slavery that had local, state, and national ramifications. In a larger sense, street diplomacy in Philadelphia magnified the stakes of national comity, i.e. the Union, by showcasing how dividing states by their condition of bondage remained impossible due to permeable geographic borders that fostered perpetual fugitive slave and kidnapping crises. Thus, this dissertation argues that African-Americans and their allies’ struggles with slave-masters, slave-catchers, kidnappers and proslavery politicians disrupted the best efforts of white politicians to maintain a compromised and compromising Union.
|Temple University. Libraries
|Theses and Dissertations
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|African American Studies
|NEITHER NORTHERN NOR SOUTHERN: THE POLITICS OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN PHILADELPHIA, 1820-1847
|Wells, Jonathan Daniel, 1969-
|Giesberg, Judith Ann, 1966-
|Neptune, Harvey R., 1970-
|Roney, Jessica C. (Jessica Choppin), 1978-
|Miller, Randall M.
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