Title

Slavery in California

Lead Author Major

History

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Greg Rohlf

Faculty Mentor Department

History

Abstract/Artist Statement

When one hears California mentioned in the context of slavery, one usually imagines the state as staunchly Free Soil. However, documents located in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections of the University of the Pacific indicate slavery may have been tolerated despite California's constitutional ban on the practice. By contextualizing these documents to obtain a clearer picture of what slavery was like in California, this paper suggests that the Peculiar Institution was only gradually abolished in the years prior to the Civil War. This is accomplished by considering the status of chattel slavery prior to Anglo settlement of the region; the 1846 case study of “Mary,” the first documented slave imported into California; the attitudes of whites toward the prospect of both slave labor and free blacks, especially in the years surrounding the California Gold Rush; California's role in national politics, including the Compromise of 1850; California's first constitution and the failure to provide an enforcement mechanism for its ban on slavery; and the cause célèbre of Archy Lee, a slave who successfully sued for his freedom in 1858, the same year as the now-infamous Dred Scott decision.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 219

Start Date

21-4-2011 5:00 PM

End Date

21-4-2011 8:00 PM

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Apr 21st, 5:00 PM Apr 21st, 8:00 PM

Slavery in California

DeRosa University Center, Room 219

When one hears California mentioned in the context of slavery, one usually imagines the state as staunchly Free Soil. However, documents located in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections of the University of the Pacific indicate slavery may have been tolerated despite California's constitutional ban on the practice. By contextualizing these documents to obtain a clearer picture of what slavery was like in California, this paper suggests that the Peculiar Institution was only gradually abolished in the years prior to the Civil War. This is accomplished by considering the status of chattel slavery prior to Anglo settlement of the region; the 1846 case study of “Mary,” the first documented slave imported into California; the attitudes of whites toward the prospect of both slave labor and free blacks, especially in the years surrounding the California Gold Rush; California's role in national politics, including the Compromise of 1850; California's first constitution and the failure to provide an enforcement mechanism for its ban on slavery; and the cause célèbre of Archy Lee, a slave who successfully sued for his freedom in 1858, the same year as the now-infamous Dred Scott decision.