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Please join us for a lunchtime book talk with Hendrik Hartog, to discuss The Trouble with Minna: A Case of Slavery and Emancipation in the Antebellum North.
From UNC Press: "In this intriguing book, Hendrik Hartog uses a forgotten 1840 case to explore the regime of gradual emancipation that took place in New Jersey over the first half of the nineteenth century. In Minna’s case, white people fought over who would pay for the costs of caring for a dependent, apparently enslaved, woman. Hartog marks how the peculiar language mobilized by the debate—about care as a “mere voluntary courtesy”—became routine in a wide range of subsequent cases about “good Samaritans.” Using Minna’s case as a springboard, Hartog explores the statutes, situations, and conflicts that helped produce a regime where slavery was usually but not always legal and where a supposedly enslaved person may or may not have been legally free.
In exploring this liminal and unsettled legal space, Hartog sheds light on the relationships between moral and legal reasoning and a legal landscape that challenges simplistic notions of what it meant to live in freedom. What emerges is a provocative portrait of a distant legal order that, in its contradictions and moral dilemmas, bears an ironic resemblance to our own legal world."
Hendrik Hartog is the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty. He holds a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University (1982), a J.D. from the New York University School of Law (1973), and an A.B. from Carleton College (1970). Before coming to Princeton, he taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School (1982-92) and at the Indiana University (Bloomington) School of Law (1977-82). Hartog has spent his scholarly life working in the social history of American law, obsessed with the difficulties and opportunities that come with studying how broad political and cultural themes have been expressed in ordinary legal conflicts. He has worked in a variety of areas of American legal history: on the history of city life, on the history of constitutional rights claims, on the history of marriage, and on the historiography of legal change. He is the author of Public Property and Private Power: the Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870 (1983), Man and Wife in America: a History (2000), and Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (2012). He is the editor of Law in the American Revolution and the Revolution in the Law (1981) and the coeditor of Law in Culture and Culture in Law (2000) and American Public Life and the Historical Imagination (2003). He has been awarded a variety of national fellowships and lectureships, and for a decade he coedited Studies in Legal History, the book series of the American Society for Legal History. He is affiliated with Princeton’s Program in Law and Public Affairs and with the Program in American Studies.