Law Review: Pardo, Rafael I.- Bankrupt Slaves

Abstract:

Responsible societies reckon with the pernicious and ugly chapters in their histories. Wherever we look around, there exist ever-present reminders of how we failed as a society in permitting the enslavement of millions of black men, women, and children in the first century of this nation’s history. No corner of society remains unstained. As such, it is incumbent on institutions to confront their involvement in this horrific past so as to fully comprehend the kaleidoscopic nature of institutional complicity in legitimating and entrenching slavery. Only by doing so can we properly continue the march of progress, finding ways to improve society, not letting the errors of our way define us, yet at the same time never forgetting them.

This Article represents a contribution toward this progress, by telling what has been, until now, an untold story about institutional complicity in antebellum slavery—that is, the story of how the federal government in the 1840s became the owner of hundreds, if not thousands, of slaves belonging to financially distressed slaveowners who sought forgiveness of debt through the federal bankruptcy process. Relying on archival court records that have not been systematically analyzed by any published scholarship, this Article tells the story of how the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 and the domestic slave trade inevitably collided to create the bankruptcy slave trade, focusing on a case study of the Eastern District of Louisiana, home to New Orleans, which was antebellum America’s largest slave market. Knowing the story of bankrupt slaves is a crucial step toward recognizing how yet another aspect of our legal system—one that has brought in its modern incarnation financial relief to millions upon millions of debtors—had deep roots in antebellum slavery.

Commentary:

Please read this paper for:
“Martha aged 4 years.”
“Slave Mortimer aged about 60 years.”
“Robert and his son William.”
“Slave Louisa aged 24 years and her daughter Marcelain aged about 8 years.”
“Rosalie negress aged about 40 years sickly & subject to Rheumatism.”
“Julia the runaway slave.”
and the other four hundred eighty souls sold (and then some): young, old, father and son, mother and daughter, infirm, and escaped. pp. 48-49.

For a copy of the paper, please see:

Bankrupt Slaves

About

1. Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University, 1993. 2. Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, 1996. Admissions to Practice of Law: North Carolina Bar, 1996. Federal District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina. Specialty Certification: North Carolina State Bar: Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy. Areas of Practice: Practice limited to consumer and business debtor bankruptcy law, 1998 to present. Memberships: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (NCATL). North Carolina Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section. Lectures prepared and presented: North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers seminar on bankruptcy; Topic: Counseling the Consumer Debtor Prior to Court - C.Y.A. Forms to Help 'Gird They Loins'; 2001. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Preparing Chapter 13 Plans; 2002. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Efficient Office Practices; 2003. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Debates; 2004. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Chapter 7 & 13 Hot Issues; 2004. Positions held: NACBA National Convention; Convention Chair; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator: Topic: Basic Bankruptcy Issues; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Chapter 13-Disposable Income and Other Issues; 2007. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Representing Members of the Military and Their Families; 2007. NACBA, Member of National Board of Directors, 2006 to present. NCATL, Chair of the Bankruptcy Section, 2003 to 2007. NACBA, Chair of the North Carolina Section, 2003 to 2007. NC Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section, Bankruptcy Council Member, 2004 to present.

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