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About the Book
The capital city of a nation founded on the premise of liberty, nineteenth-century Washington, D.C., was both an entrepôt of urban slavery and the target of abolitionist ferment. The growing slave trade and the enactment of Black codes placed the city’s Black women within the rigid confines of a social hierarchy ordered by race and gender. At the Threshold of Liberty reveals how these women--enslaved, fugitive, and free--imagined new identities and lives beyond the oppressive restrictions intended to prevent them from ever experiencing liberty, self-respect, and power.
Consulting newspapers, government documents, letters, abolitionist records, legislation, and memoirs, Tamika Y. Nunley traces how Black women navigated social and legal proscriptions to develop their own ideas about liberty as they escaped from slavery, initiated freedom suits, created entrepreneurial economies, pursued education, and participated in political work. In telling these stories, Nunley places Black women at the vanguard of the history of Washington, D.C., and the momentous transformations of nineteenth-century America.
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About the Author
Tamika Nunley was recently promoted to Associate Professor of American history at Oberlin College and Conservatory. Her research and teaching interests include slavery, gender, nineteenth-century legal history, digital history, and the American Civil War. At Oberlin, she created the History Design Lab which allows students to develop scholarly projects that involve methodological approaches such as digital humanities, public history, creative nonfiction, and curatorial practices. Her book, At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. (UNC, 2021) examines African American women’s strategies of self-definition in the contexts of slavery, fugitivity, courts, schools, streets, and the government during the Civil War era.
She has published articles and reviews in the Journal of Southern History, The William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of American Legal History, and the Journal of the Civil War Era. In addition to being a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians, she serves on the editorial board of Civil War History, and on committees for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the Society of Civil War Historians, and the Southern Historical Association. She is currently completing a second book, The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia, 1705-1865, with the University of North Carolina Press. Her work has been supported by the Andrew Mellon and Woodrow Wilson foundations as well as the American Association of University Women.