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W. Caleb McDaniel
Rice University (Houston, TX 77005-1827)

Public Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products][Prizes]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2016 – 8/31/2017

Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America

The story of Henrietta Wood, an African American woman who won reparations in federal court from her former enslavers. Emancipated twice, her life covered a century of slavery, freedom, and strained race relations from her birth in Kentucky in 1818 to her death in Chicago in 1912.

A Case of Reparations is the first book to tell the story of Henrietta Wood, a black woman who sued one of her former enslavers in federal court in the 1870s and won. Born enslaved in Kentucky in 1818 but manumitted in Cincinnati in 1848, Wood was kidnapped and sold back into slavery in 1853. Wood was sold again in 1855 to a Mississippi planter, who took her to Texas in 1863 to prevent her emancipation during the Civil War. She returned to Ohio in 1869 and filed a $20,000 suit against her kidnapper, Zebulon Ward. A decade later, in the twilight of Reconstruction, a jury awarded Wood $2,500 in damages. By narrating the stories of Wood, Ward, and Wood's son, who became a lawyer in twentieth-century Chicago, this book uses an individual case to explore what emancipated black Americans won, and did not win, from the Civil War and Reconstruction. It also demonstrates both the promise and the limits of individual slave reparations as Americans continue to debate them in the present.