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Novel BondageSlavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Tess Chakkalakal

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036330

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036330.001.0001

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The Slave-Marriage Plot

(p.1) Introduction
Novel Bondage

Tess Chakkalakal

University of Illinois Press

This introductory chapter defines slave-marriage and how it bears upon legal marriage in nineteenth-century America. Hidden from law and subject to separation, a slave-marriage was considered to be so far outside the purview of legal forms of marriage that it seemed hardly worth mentioning. Yet, as a number of slave testimonies and cases heard after the abolition of slavery suggest, slaves married in spite of the law that stipulated “the slave could not marry because he was legally incapable to consent, because the relation of husband and wife was inconsistent with that of master and slave.” Efforts to legalize slave-marriages following emancipation suggest that their marriages were, in fact, just as valued as legal marriages even though they were performed, originally, without legal sanction.

Keywords:   slave-marriage, nineteenth-century America, legal marriage, emancipation, abolition, slave-marriage plots, legal marriage

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