Symposium on Free State Slavery Closing Keynote Address with Kathleen M. Brown, “Encumbering Liberty in the Shadow of Slavery.”
Kathleen M. Brown is the David Boies Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also a faculty affiliate of Africana Studies, the History and Sociology of Science, the Center for Research on Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies, and the lead faculty historian on the Penn & Slavery Project. Brown’s research focuses on intersectional questions of race, gender, sexuality, and labor in colonial North American, Atlantic, and early U.S. contexts. She is the author of two prize-winning books, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race and Power in Colonial Virginia (1996) and Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America (2009). Her most recent book, Undoing Slavery: Bodies, Race, and Rights in the Age of Abolition (February 2023, University of Pennsylvania Press), considers how the campaign to end slavery entangled activists in a complex process of undoing longstanding practices and habits of the body central to that institution.
This symposium undertakes a consideration of the question of slavery in the so-called "Free States," presenting cutting-edge scholarship by senior, mid-career, and early career scholars. Our authors cover a range of jurisdictions across the expanding United States, using a variety of methodological tools and offering a wide breadth of theoretical insights. Each paper will focus on the symposium theme of slavery and bound labor in jurisdictions that ostensibly banned the practice. Our authors probe their topics from several different angles, and the symposium as a whole reveals both the diversity in regimes and experiences of unfree labor as well as overlaps between the forms of unfreedom African and Native Americans experienced before 1865.