[VIRTUAL] Allyship Series: DouglassWeek, Featuring William G. Thomas III
The Harvard Clubs of Boston, Ireland and Washington DC are proud to bring you the latest installment of the Allyship Series as we celebrate DouglassWeek.
Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 17:00pm (UK time. 12:00 ET time)
Location: Virtual via Zoom
"When the Enslaved Sued for Freedom" with William G. Thomas III, Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History, University of Nebraska
On the inspiring stories behind his new book A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery From the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War.
For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital. Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, historian William G. Thomas tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families (the Butlers, Queens, Mahoneys and others), their lawyers (among them a young Francis Scott Key), and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. How could the enslaved sue for freedom and use laws passed by slaveholders to challenge slavery itself? How did the Jesuits become the principal slaveholders defending slavery in court? Why did Francis Scott Key represent the Queen family, and how did their case shape American law and the course of slavery in the U.S.?
As Prof. Thomas dug deeply into archives, he uncovered information that upended his understanding of his own family history. Among his ancestors were major players in the story of the Queen family’s quest for freedom, including a lawyer who defended the Jesuits against the Queen family and a judge who ruled in favor of the Queens’ bid for freedom. A Question of Freedom asks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies today.
William G. Thomas III is the Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska. He was co-founder and director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Lincoln Prize Finalist.
All participants in the Frederick Douglass Allyship event for the Harvard Club of Washington, Boston, and Ireland are welcome to a special preview screening of The Bell Affair, a live action animated feature film (90 min., 2022) directed by Kwakiutl Dreher and based on William G. Thomas III's A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War. The film tells the story of Daniel and Mary Bell who sued for their freedom in Washington, D.C., and launched the largest slave escape attempt in American history. The film has received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Maryland Humanities, and generous donors.
Harvard Club members can watch the film at any time before February 15th. The link to Harvard Club's screening of The Bell Affair feature film will be provided after you've registered.
Following our successful events focusing on Anti-Racism Allyship (October), Allyship with the LGBTQ+ community (November), Allyship with Indigenous Peoples (February), Allyship with Asian Americans (May), Allyship with Peoples with Disabilities (June), Allyship: World AIDS Day (December) and Allyship: Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness (December) we are proud to host this next installment of the series.
Registration is required for this complimentary event to ensure that you are provided with the log-in credentials for our Zoom Meeting. You will receive the login credentials approximately 3 hours prior to your event, they will not be included in the automatic confirmation email you receive upon registration.
Any questions, please contact Kristy Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org).