From a brilliant young legal scholar comes this sweeping history of American ideas of belonging and citizenship, told through the stories of fourteen legal cases that helped to shape our nation.
Spanning three centuries, Black Trials details the legal challenges and struggles that helped define the ever-shifting identity of blacks in America. From the well-known cases of Plessy v. Ferguson and the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the more obscure trial of Joseph Hanno, an eighteenth-century free black man accused of murdering his wife and bringing smallpox to Boston, Weiner recounts the essential dramas of American identity—illuminating where our conception of minority rights has come from and where it might go. Significant and enthralling, these are the cases that forced the courts and the country to reconsider what it means to be black in America, and Mark Weiner demonstrates their lasting importance for our society.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Black Trials|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
This eBook download is available in the following formats:
|Parent title||Black Trials|
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Let Us Make a Tryal
On May 2, 1721, in Boston, Massachusetts, with New England still contentedly oblivious to the smallpox epidemic that was about to descend, a free black man went on trial for murder. His name was Joseph Hanno, and he was "distinguished from the most of his Complexion" by the breadth of his Christian learning and knowledge of the Bible.The victim was Hanno's wife, a prominent free woman named Nanny Negro. Authorities accused Hanno of beating Nanny over the head with the blunt edge of an ax as she was preparing to go to bed and then slitting her throat with a razor-a "barbarous" and "uncommon" act that struck at one of the central institutions of Puritan society, the holy covenant of marriage.Two months later, as the first red blotches of the pox began to appear on town residents, Joseph Hanno was hanged. Within a year, over 800 Bostonians would succumb to plague and be buried near the town common. It is uncertain how Hanno's executioners disposed of his remains, but they probably did so with little ceremony. They may have given his corpse to a group of slaves and freemen to inter near Copp's Hill, in Boston's North End.
In life, Joseph Hanno was a man of no special consequence. But his crime made him notorious, and to the anxious Puritan mind, which believed that individual crimes reflected the moral state of society as a whole, the outbreak of pox just before his execution must have seemed like a divine punishment visited on a community of sinners. Indeed, Cotton Mather, who was deeply concerned with the spiritual welfare of blacks-he was something of a spiritual egalitarian-had ministered to Hanno in prison, a