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Annette Gordon-Reed, Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom Before Dred Scott, 102 J. Am. Hist. 1189 (2016).

Abstract: On his tour through the United States in the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville noted Americans' intense attachment to law. In their daily lives they used precepts, and styles of argumentation and decision-making that came directly from the legal system. It is no surprise, then, that enslaved people in the United States, as American as the people who claimed ownership over them, would also have law on their minds. In truth, they had every reason to think about it because law created and sustained the country's racially based slave system.