The Freedom Suits of Southern Maryland, Family History, and Reckoning with American Slavery
Join Dr. William G. Thomas III, author and history professor from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to discuss the freedom suits and the families of Southern Maryland featured in his prize-winning book, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War. For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families on the Western Shore of Maryland filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital. Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, historian William G. Thomas III tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families, their lawyers, and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. The story of these families and their freedom suits calls us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery in American history and its legacies today.
William G. Thomas III is the Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Arts and Sciences. He was co-founder and director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is the author of the prize-winning A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale University Press, 2020). Longer bio available here: https://history.unl.edu/william-thomas-iii
The lecture is free and open to the public
St. Mary’s Hall, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 47458 Trinity Church Rd, St Marys City, MD 20686
Info: 301.994.4370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org