“In a direct election system, the North would have outnumbered the South (which had a large population but far fewer eligible voters), whose roughly 550,000 enslaved black people were disenfranchised. Delegates from the South generally supported Madison’s idea of the Electoral College over a direct election system because it was based solely on population volume, not citizenship status or enfranchisement. In conjunction, and at Madison’s urging, the convention agreed to count each enslaved black person as three-fifths of a citizen for the purpose of calculating each state’s representation in the Electoral College and in the allotment of congressional seats.”
“What do historians of the earlier period do when dealing with black diasporic subjects laboring and living in a world of ideas, philosophies, and cosmologies but largely without alphanumeric texts? Does this black intellectual production only start becoming intellectual history when texts written by people of African descent begin to appear? What new possibilities for intellectual work open when the enslaved and the period of slavery become central?
Instead of approaches, below are five written texts I often return to when thinking with (not necessarily through) and engaging the intellectual production of people of African descent circling the Atlantic before emancipation….”
“The question remains, however, as to how the petitioners learned about the Somerset decision and coartación. Last month, I wrote about how many black Bostonians were literate and engaged with the print culture of the eighteenth century. As one of the most important legal decisions regarding slavery in Anglo-American law, Somerset received significant coverage in the American press. Indeed, it would have been hard to avoid reading about the case after it began circulating around the Atlantic world in the summer of 1772. Slaves and free blacks reading about Somerset could not help but be energized by the decision and understand it as an important legal precedent for freedom and a catalyst for their own local struggles.