Celia, A Slave Essay Topics

Melton A. McLaurin

Celia, A Slave

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Celia, A Slave Essay Topics

  1. What kinds of historical documents help McLaurin reconstruct Celia and her contemporaries’ lives? What limitations come from lack of evidence or historical documentation? Choose one example of McLaurin’s speculations based on the historical evidence and offer an alternative interpretation of this evidence.
  1. McLaurin concludes that Celia’s version of the events (that she acted alone in killing Newsom and disposing of his body) is the truth. What evidence doeshe use to support this conclusion?  What evidence is there against Celia’s story?  What do you believe happened on the night Newsom was killed?  Based on what evidence?
  1. Several key historical events are relevant to Celia’s story, including legislation like the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and legal decisions such as the Dred Scott case. Explain why the political backdrop to Celia’s case is so fundamental to our understanding of her life, using particular examples to illustrate your argument.
  1. McLaurin compares Celia’s case to the Dred Scott decision. Why do you think Celia’s case is not as widely known as Dred Scott?  How does studying Celia’s case enhance our understanding of this far-reaching and devastating part of American history in ways that are different from studying the Dred Scott decision?
  1. Why does McLaurin use the first chapter to sketch out the similarities between Robert Newsom and John Jameson, whom he deliberately sets up as foils? How should we account for their different views of Celia and her worth?  We might be tempted to attribute the difference between them to individual chance—one man was simply born with a stronger moral compass than the other—but how might we account for the difference with consideration of the larger political and social context of the time?
  1. Why, according to McLaurin, was Celia unlikely to have received help from Newsom’s daughters when she asked them to intervene on her behalf? How is this relevant to his discussion of gender oppression in the context of slavery?
  1. How would you characterize the role of the press? Use McLaurin’s references to various newspaper accounts of the murder, trial, and execution to develop and support your discussion.
  1. Several politicians are…
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