In the late-Antebellum South, a new genre of free black life-writing emerged: the self-enslavement petition. From the southern state legislatures that passed laws enabling such petitions, through the local judicial functionaries who ruled on them, to the abolitionist writers who had to manage their (sporadic) reality, free black petitions for enslavement engendered a philosophical and cultural scandal. Whites in North and South alike asked: How could free black subjects, however depleted their circumstances, relinquish freedom, even the attenuated freedom available to them in the Antebellum United States? Through a series of cases, this talk will explore the origins of these petitions, their legal and philosophical history, and their generic features.

**This presentation is full.**