Public Seminar Presents: Becoming Free, Becoming Black

On July 1, Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross join your host, Claire Potter, to discuss their new book about race, law, and citizenship

This live webinar is on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, from 12:00-1:00 PM EST.

How did Africans become ‘blacks’ in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (Cambridge University Press, 2020) tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders’ efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies – Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana – Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom – not slavery – established the meaning of blackness in law.

Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.

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Join Public Seminar’s co-executive editor Claire Potter and her guests, co-authors Alejandro de la Fuente of Harvard University and Ariela J. Gross of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, as they explore how African-Americans understood and claimed their rights as free Americans.

  • Register for this event here: You will receive a link to the webinar on the morning of the event.

  • Purchase Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (Cambridge University Press, 2020), or order it through your local independent bookstore.

This book talk is free and open to the public. Donations to Public Seminar, in any amount, help to support events like these.

Alejandro de la Fuente is Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University.

Ariela J. Gross is the John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History and the Co-Director of the Center for Law, History, and Culture at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar, Professor of History at The New School for Social Research, and author of Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy (Basic Books, 2020). You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical

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