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Journal of Southern History

Robert Colby

Becoming Free, Becoming Black

Blending careful archival work with seamless distillations of the secondary literature, de la Fuente and Gross effectively depict the structural forces looming over people of African descent and the legal havens they constructed in the shadows. Vivid anecdotes give a deeply human complexion to what could easily have been an antiseptic description of evolving codes of laws. This compact yet comprehensive study, moreover, provides a welcome reminder that critical mechanisms within slave societies appear with greater clarity when presented in contrasts. De la Fuente and Gross have provided a useful handbook for historians of all three regions who seek to understand the law's effect on regimes of racial exploitation—and the worlds that people of...