Dig History – Celia, A Slave

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Episode: Celia, A Slave: The True Crime Case that Rocked the American Slave Power

Series: Dig History

Release Date: 1/28/2018
Producers: Sarah Handley-Cousins and Elizabeth Garner Masarik

Episode Link: https://digpodcast.org/2018/01/28/celia-a-slave/

Tags: History, Race, Gender, Enslavement, Law, Murder, Rape, Intersectionality, 1800s, Civil War, Slavery, Women’s History, African American history

Description:

Conversational/Academic The episode focuses on the trial of Celia, an enslaved woman, who murdered her rapist/slave owner. The podcast’s conversational nature featuring a group of historians allows students to “sit in” on a historical discussion.

Notes: Kera Lovell: This episode deals with rape so students should be warned of this potential trigger. Because this was a court case, the primary sources related to the case might also be a good starting point for an exercise on how the court system reproduced white supremacy/patriarchy in the 1850s. The podcast episode draws heavily from Melton McLaurin’s monograph on Celia linked below, that could also be used for an accompanying reading assignment.

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Typical slave cabin, c. 1830, in Missouri.  This is known as the “John Condron slave cabin.”  Image online, courtesy Library of Congress (American Memory).

Assignment Ideas:

1) Computer Lab exercise: This PBS website includes a discussion of gender in its intersectional analysis of enslavement (see section Men, Women, & Gender among others): https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/slavery/experience/gender/history.html

2) Primary Source excerpt: The podcast can accompany excerpts from Harriet Jacobs’s memoir of enslavement, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs.html

3) Theoretical application: The podcast ultimately offers a fantastic lens into an intersectional analysis of slavery, and could therefore accompany Kimberle Crenshaw’s famous essay on this: https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mapping-margins.pdf or her more recent video explanation of this via TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?language=en

Potential Reflection Questions:

1) How did gender shape the experience of slavery? What was the experience of slavery like for enslaved African American women?

2) How do you think white slave-owning women felt about this treatment of enslaved black women and why?

3) What is the story of Celia, and how does her story shape what we know about enslavement?

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Other Relevant Sources:

Wiki overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_Missouri_v._Celia,_a_Slave

Book: Melton McLaurin, Celia, a Slave: https://www.amazon.com/Celia-Slave-Melton-Mclaurin/dp/0380803364 (shown above)

Book: Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South: https://www.amazon.com/Arnt-Woman-Female-Slaves-Plantation/dp/0393314812
Site: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/celialinks.html

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