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AMANDA KLEINTOP AND MEGHAN MORRIS, ABF Doctoral Fellow and ABF Postdoctoral Fellow

  • When: September 20, 2017, 12 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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“The Constitution as it Is, and the Union as it Was”: White Southerners’ Resistance to Immediate, Uncompensated Emancipation in the U.S. South

Until the U.S. Civil War, legal recognition of property rights in slaves enabled slave buyers and sellers to purchase and sell slaves on credit and to mortgage slaves. The U.S. government’s wartime decision to abolish slavery without offering reimbursement for the value of freed slaves threatened to send this complex system of finance, founded on human property, into chaos. My project, “The Balance of Freedom,” documents the little-known history of white southerners’ resistance to uncompensated emancipation and their defense of what they perceived to be their right to profit from the value of slaves. Contrary to prior historians’ claims, some white southerners defended their investments in black people as not only laborers, but as collateral, by seeking reimbursement for freed slaves from their state governments or from the federal government and relief from their debts for the value of slaves during and well after the Civil War. Their appeals to courts, legislators, governors, and the President reveal shifting understandings of which branch and level of government could regulate the state laws and financial practices that had categorized enslaved people as capital. When the Fourteenth Amendment nullified all claims for compensation in 1868 and the U.S. Supreme Court held slave buyers accountable for their debts in 1871, I argue, the federal government forced white southerners to relinquish slave labor and the value of their slaves.    

Amanda Kleintop is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Northwestern University specializing in nineteenth-century American history with a minor field in historical methodologies. Her research interests include the U.S. South, Civil War, slavery, and emancipation in the Atlantic World. Kleintop’s dissertation, “The Balance of Freedom: Abolishing Property Rights in Slaves after Emancipation,” examines white southerners’ demands for emancipation policies other than the one that came into existence: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery. It explores the political consequences of their attempts to profit from what they believed was their right to own property in humans by claiming compensation for their freed slaves from the federal government and relief from their debts for the value of slaves. Using original historiographical research, Kleintop reveals the contradictory and shifting legal, political, and ideological conception of what was possible as 4 million enslaved people transitioned from ‘property’ to citizens.

Kleintop holds a Master’s in History from Northwestern and a B.A. in history and leadership studies from the University of Richmond (2011). Before attending Northwestern, Amanda worked in digital history with the Digital Scholarship Lab and public history with Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission.

Speculative Fields: Property in the Shadow of Post-Conflict Colombia

As Colombia attempts to bring its decades-long conflict to a close, the state has been engaged in a broad endeavor to bring about a new era: the “post-conflict.” Land restitution, which aims to return and title land to those who lost it in the conflict, has been billed as part of the path to peace. In the anticipatory shadow of the post-conflict, however, restitution has given rise to speculation on uncertain market and legal regimes, as well as regimes of violence, which I explore drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the region of Urabá. New forms of speculative possession of land, as well as recalibrated historical forms, take shape in this shadow as peace is continually deferred into the future.

Meghan L. Morris is an anthropologist completing her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Her research examines the role of law in war and peacemaking, with a particular focus on property over land. Her scholarship draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork as well as her training and ongoing work as a lawyer. Her dissertation, “Property in the Shadow of the Post-Conflict,” is an interdisciplinary study examining how property can become understood as both the root of violent conflict and the key to peace. It explores this question through an ethnographic account of how the reordering of property is central to ongoing efforts to achieve a post-conflict era in Colombia.

 Her work has appeared in the Revista Colombiana de Antropología (Colombian Journal of Anthropology) and she has conducted research as well as human rights and environmental justice work in Latin America (including Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Peru) for fifteen years. Prior to her doctoral work, she received a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. in International Relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.S. in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University. She is also affiliated as a senior researcher at the Bogotá-based Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia).

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