ARTICLE: King on Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts

Wilma King, “Mad” Enough to Kill: Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts, The Journal of African American History, Vol. 92, No. 1, Women, Slavery, and Historical Research (Winter, 2007), pp. 37-56

“More than two hundred Missourians petitioned Governor John C. Edwards to pardon Nelly, an enslaved teenager indicted for an 1846 murder in Warren County, while twelve jurors voted to execute Celia, a young enslaved woman charged with an 1855 homicide in Callaway County.The reasons compelling white citizens to save one African American and to condemn another are as poignant as the motives that drove the young women to take another’s life. By probing into the rationales for the defendants’ actions and of the men who decided their fates, this essay illuminates similarities and differences in two capital cases linking the enslaved women together through age, legal status, and “madness.” This examination reveals much about sexual exploitation, community standards, color, class, and the judicial process in antebellum Missouri. The study also raises questions about the extent to which the circumstances surrounding Nelly and Celia and their responses were or were not like those of their enslaved
probing in the antebellum era…”

Read: “Mad” Enough to Kill: Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts on JSTOR

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