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Grant number like: FT-248668-16

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Jeffrey P. Forret
Lamar University (Beaumont, TX 77705-5748)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2016 – 6/30/2016

Williams' Gang: A Slave Trader, His Cargo, and Justice in the Old South

To support a book-length study of slave trader William H. Williams and the legal questions related to slave trading.

In 1840, Washington, D.C., slave trader William H. Williams purchased twenty-seven convicted slaves out of the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, agreeing to sell them per state law outside the United States. He then allegedly attempted to dispose of his human cargo unlawfully in New Orleans, prompting a series of court cases that culminated before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, four years after emancipation, eleven years after Williams' death, and almost thirty years after the original incident. The burgeoning scholarly literature on the internal slave trade in the Old South has overlooked the water-borne transport of slaves within the United States as well as the complex legal questions raised by professional slave trading. My project examines the criminal pasts of the slaves whom Williams purchased as well as his own history of encounters with the law, offering an unprecedented look at the legal issues surrounding the coastwise domestic slave trade in the American South.