Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

‘That All Her Increase Shall Be Free’: enslaved women's bodies and the Maryland 1809 Law of Manumission


This article investigates the relationship between manumission laws and enslaved women's bodies in Maryland, USA. The point of departure is the 1809 Act to Ascertain and Declare the Condition of Such Issue as may hereafter be born of Negro or Mulatto Female Slaves, which minimized age requirements for freeing enslaved children. If the status of living or future children was not established at the time the manumission document for the mother was presented in court, then any such children were to remain in bondage. As this article argues, the 1809 law represented what lawmakers, slaveholders, and bondpeople already knewthat freedom, like enslavement, was tied to a bondwoman's womb. By investigating apprenticeship records, legal statutes, manumission documents, and African American petitions for freedom, this article argues that the deployment of black women's bodies within the law challenged, extended, and defined definitions of freedom in the decades leading up to the Civil War. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View