Martin R. Delany and Rhetorics of Divided Sovereignty
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Martin Robison Delany’s engagement with the American legal system extended far beyond the pages of his first and only novel, Blake; or, The Huts of America (published serially 1859, 1861–62). While perhaps best known today for his fictional interventions into the cultural and legal milieu of the 1850s, Delany had a lifelong interest in the law. He believed that African Americans had to be well versed in the law in order to make effective arguments against slavery and racism. Delany himself was familiar with statutory law and British and American common law. He drew on his knowledge of jurisprudence while debating the meaning of the Constitution with Frederick Douglass in the pages of The North Star.1 Furthermore, he was part of a larger literary community in which African American writers challenged white readings of the Constitution and judicial decisions regarding African American citizenship, personal freedom, and property in the pages of the periodical press. The contributions of Delany and other African American writers to American legal thought often have been overlooked because many were not practicing attorneys. Instead, a great deal of critical attention has focused on African Americans as subject to American law rather than agents of its production.
KeywordsBlack People Critical Race Theory Racial Oppression Colored People Black Folk
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