Levan Book Chats: Becoming Free, Becoming Black, by Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross 

Friday, September 25, 2020 at 12:00pm to 1:15pm

This is a past event.
Virtual Event


Levan Institute for the Humanities Book ChatsA series celebrating new books by USC scholars in the Humanities. Each Book Chat event features the author and guests in conversation about a recently completed publication.


Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, by Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross

How did Africans become “blacks” in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies - Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana - Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom - not slavery - established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.

The authors will be joined in conversatiton by Sven Beckert (Harvard), Adrienne Davis (Washington University St. Louis), and Michelle McKinley (University of Oregon).  Moderated by Nathan Perl-Rosenthal.

About the Authors:

Alejandro de la Fuente is Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Professor of African and African American Studies and of History, and Director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University.

Ariela Gross is John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History, and Co-Director of the Center for Law, History, and Culture at USC Gould School of Law. 

Guest Speakers:

Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University. 

Adrienne Davis is William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law, Vice Provost, and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity at Washington University St. Louis. 

Michelle McKinley is the Bernard B. Kliks Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon Law School. 


This event is a  collaboration with the USC Center for Law, History, and Culture and the Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies

Questions? Please email usclevan@usc.edu

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff

Campus Humanities, Levan Institute for the Humanities
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