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Thomas's "Question of Freedom"

William G. Thomas III, the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska, has published A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press):

For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital.  
 
Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, William Thomas tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families (the Butlers, Queens, Mahoneys, and others), their lawyers (among them a young Francis Scott Key), and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. A Question of Freedom asks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies in the present day.
The New York Times review, which hails the book as "a rich, roiling history that Thomas recounts with eloquence and skill," is here.

--Dan Ernst

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