November 5, 2012

Law, Race, and Inheritance in Nineteenth Century America

From Oxford University Press:

Oxford University Press is thrilled to announce the recent publication of Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century by University of Kentucky Professor of English Jeffory A. Clymer. The inaugural volume in the new Oxford Studies in American Literary History series, Family Money combines nuanced literary interpretations with significant legal cases to reveal a shared preoccupation with the financial quandaries emerging from interracial sexuality in nineteenth-century America. At stake, Clymer shows, were the very notions of family and the long-term distribution of wealth in the United States. For more information or to order, please see Oxford University, or your local bookstore.

Jeffory Clymer explores the histories of formerly enslaved women who tried to claiminheritances left to them by deceased owners; the household traumas of mixed-race slaves; post-Emancipation calls for reparations; and the economic fallout from anti-miscegenation marriage laws.  Authors ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, and Harriet Beecher Stowe to Charles Chesnutt and Lydia Maria Child recognized that intimate interracial relationships took myriad forms—sexual, marital, coercive, familial, pleasurable, and painful—often simultaneously.  Their fiction confirms that the consequences of these relationships for nineteenth-century Americans meant thinking about more than the legal structure of racial identity.  The populace was plagued with a host of vexing, interrelated questions:  Who could count as family (and when)? Who could own property (and when), and how was racial difference imagined?  Throughout the book, Clymer’s arguments are bolstered by salient examples from U.S. legal history, such as the law of partus sequitur ventrem and cases like Gary v. Stevenson and State v. Mann.   
 A searching cultural history that draws on law, literature, and economics, Family Money reveals the powerful effects interracial sexuality had on life in nineteenth-century America and its dramatic long-term consequences. 

No comments: