Turner v. Smith | Jeannie Suk | September 24, 2017

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Turner v. Smith

Louisiana trial court opinion (1857)

Turner v. Smith

Louisiana trial court opinion (1857)

. . . Now, a female slave in the service of a licentious and immoral master is commanded by him to receive his illicit embraces. She has been taught from her earliest infancy that one of her main duties as a slave was absolute subjection to the will of her master – but the master has never before commanded her to do such an act as this, she hesitates between duty and propriety, the master repeats his requests, and threatens to use force or violence. She is now determined what to do – either to be punished or submit. She determines not to submit. Who is she to apply to for her protection? A magistrate. Where is her proof? Her word will not be taken – she cannot testify against her master – no one has heard or seen anything improper between the master and his slave. To all appearances she has been well and kindly treated, and has no apparent cause of complaint, and here I might ask, where is the law by which she can be protected? The idea of protection from such an influence may be plausible in theory, but perfectly powerless in practice . . .

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September 24, 2017

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Jeannie Suk

Harvard University

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