Cory James Young, Georgetown University
Friends of the MCEAS Dissertation Fellow
“For Life or Otherwise: Abolition and Slavery in South Central Pennsylvania, 1780-1847”
Cory's dissertation is a social history of the transformation and evenual elimination of slavery in the first U.S. state to attempt such a project. He argues that Pennsylvania's gradual abolition program was not only an emancipation scheme, but also a labor regime that decentered lifelong slavery in favor of Black birthright servitude. While most scholars of slavery and abolition in Pennsylvania have focused their attention on Philadelphia, Cory analyzes slave registrations from interior counties where Black bondage endured well into the nineteenth century. Building on a broad literature, "For Life or Otherwise" examines: political hostility to immediate emancipation; Dickinson College's ties to slavery; the interplay of race, gender, and violence; the law of hereditary term slavery; gradual abolition's impact on mobility and migration; and the myth of total abolition in Pennsylvania.