Edlie Wong

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20062007 Forum on Travel

Edlie Wong

Assistant Professor, English, Rutgers

University of California, Berkeley

Fugitive and Foreigner: Cultures of Travel in the Black Atlantic, 1830–1865

How did slavery fundamentally shape ideas about travel and travel culture of the period? Legal distinctions over categories of mobility became obligatory as white slaveholding travelers, tourists, and migrants began to travel among states, crossing from slave to free jurisdictions accompanied by slaves. While the Constitution’s Fugitive Slave Clause fixed fugitive flight as a crime punishable by recapture and re-enslavement, no comparable federal regulation existed for slaves traveling to and within free jurisdictions with a master’s consent. In landmark British and American freedom suits fought over slaves traveling in free territories, antislavery legislation, specifically in the form of personal liberty laws, began to restrict the slaveholder’s “freedom to travel” in a manner, according to proslavery ideologues, disturbingly akin to the slave before slave law. To what extent did slavery fundamentally change our understanding of the meanings, contexts, and forms of these untold histories of travel?