become prime hands or skilled laborers? Was age a factor, especially for women in their childbearing years? Could the purchase and manumitting of males (and females) have gone unrecorded? Moreover, would a longitudinal study of the deeds of manumission in Charleston between 1800 and 1860 yield the same conclusions as Robert Olwell's 1996 study?1 One of the most impressive features of Forging Freedom is the author's fluid engagement with court records to show that free black women employed the legal system to gain freedom and to protect it. They also appear to have used the feme sole statute, even when married, as they transacted business, and the records indicate that the women had a clear concept of legal intricacies that could disadvantage them. Consequently, Myers presents women, who appear to see themselves as "citizens," as adept in sidestepping potential legal obstacles through formal and informal acts such as signing petitions, filing suits, and avoiding or evading burdensome taxes. Beyond finessing the legal system for their own advantage, these women established relationships with whites who could render assistance or offer protection when their own herculean efforts were not sufficient to solidify their own vision of freedom. Wilma King notes
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 13, 2013
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